We could see more COVID-19 cases in winter months, experts say

The combination of cold weather bringing people indoors and respiratory infections, including flu, is cause for concern, Spokane County’s health officer said.

Editor’s note: Above video is an explainer on how winter months can take a toll on the immune system 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Public health professionals are expressing growing concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases with the onset of colder weather. 

Dr. Bob Lutz, who serves as health officer for Spokane County, said the combination of cold weather bringing people indoors and respiratory infections, including flu, is cause for concern among experts. Oct. 1 typically marks the beginning of flu season. 

“All public health, as well as clinical practices, are all very concerned about that convergence of factors that could lead to more cases over the winter months,” Lutz said. 

This comes amid a spike in coronavirus cases following Labor Day weekend. Spokane County reported 228 new cases and five new deaths over the past weekend alone. 

“We’ve had a significant hit over the past week or so with more cases,” Lutz said.

Lutz said the increase in cases is “undoubtedly a function,” at least to some degree, of another holiday spike. Epidemiologists have been able to link many of the cases to activities that occurred over Labor Day weekend, he added.

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This comes amid reporting from national news outlets of infection disease experts warning of a possible cold-weather surge of COVID-19 cases. 

The Washington Post reports that the surge could begin well before Election Day on Nov. 3, though researches assume the crest would come closer to when fall gives way to winter. 

My feeling is that there is a wave coming, and it’s not so much whether it’s coming but how big is it going to be,” Eili Klein, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post. 

Research has shown that common cold viruses prefer colder temperatures, replicating easier when winter hits. This is also the case for the flu, as researchers believe it can survive and spread more easily in the cold.  

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The winter months can also take a toll on the immune system. People tend to spend less time outdoors during these months, meaning they get less vitamin D from sunlight. It plays an essential role in keeping your immune system healthy.

However, there is some good news about the winter months. Lutz believes steps people are taking to stop the spread of coronavirus — including mask wearing, staying home when ill and hand-washing — could have positive impacts during cold and flu season.

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