By Alexandra Becker
As Texans continue to brave the uncharacteristically cold weather this week, experts warn of an increase in COVID-19 cases as a result of the chilly temperatures. Dr. Linda Yancey, M.D., infectious disease specialist for Memorial Hermann Health System, warns that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 disease, seems to spread more easily in colder climates. Even more, the frigid temperatures are driving people inside, where the virus can transmit via tiny droplets between people who are speaking, eating or drinking in small, enclosed spaces.
“The message we want to convey is to be aware of your actions as you’re trying to stay warm this week,” Yancey said. “Don’t let your guard down and neglect the safe practices we’ve grown accustomed to just because the weather is not ideal.”
Yancey said that in Houston, cases of COVID-19 are slowly but steadily decreasing—a welcome sign after the recent surge, likely due to small gatherings over the holidays. She hopes the cold front will not reverse that trend.
“Experts have determined that the SARS-CoV-2 virus tends to spread more easily in colder climates, so make sure you’re wearing your mask properly, staying six feet apart from others, and practicing good hand hygiene,” Yancey said. “Be sure your mask has a tight fit, too. While I don’t think two masks are necessarily required, if there are large openings in your mask on the sides or if you’re wearing a bandana, I’d recommend throwing a surgical mask on top for extra protection.”
Yancey added that people will be more likely to move indoors during such extreme weather, but busy, enclosed spaces are a red flag for COVID-19 spread.
“A crowded restaurant, for example, is a breeding ground for COVID-19,” Yancey said. “It may be smarter to order takeout and eat at home if you don’t have the option of eating outside or social distancing inside. Supermarkets and other stores may be more crowded than usual, too, with people stocking up on supplies. Just be aware of your surroundings—the last thing you want to do is let your guard down just because it’s cold.”
The good news, she added, is that this is Texas, after all: just wait a few days and it may be a balmy 75 degrees.