Could The COVID-19 Delta Variant Increase Due To Cold Weather?

After over a year-and-a-half of bad news surrounding COVID-19 statistics, there now seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports in its most recent weekly epidemiological update that COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline globally. According to this latest report, COVID-19 cases declined globally by approximately 9% for the week of Sept. 27 through Oct. 3, while the death rate remained flat.

The latest weekly review out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backs up the WHO's findings. Statistics showed that the numbers are going in the right direction, with average daily new cases in the U.S. declining by nearly 12% compared to the week prior. However, total deaths in the U.S. due to COVID-19 surpassed the 700,000 mark this past week.

Despite cases and deaths trending downward, Delta remains the variant of concern as we begin to move into the colder months.

Why COVID-19 Delta variant cases could rise this winter

The temperate weather of spring through mid-fall has allowed people to spend more time outdoors, where there is a lower risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and transmitting it to others. As a result of spending more time outdoors, people have become accustomed to this sense of freedom, wearing masks less frequently. Experts now worry that with the highly virulent Delta variant still among us, people will bring this relaxed status indoors and forgo wearing masks.

​​"We still have a couple of months to go until this Delta wave sweeps across the country in a regionalized fashion and we are sort of done with it," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told CNN. He noted there are already upticks in the Delta variant in colder areas of the country.

Similar to last year at this time, some health experts are concerned about a rise in cases as people travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. "We're experiencing a new virus, a newly emerged pathogen, and we're trying to fight it with new tools that we don't have a lot of experience with," Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County public health department, told STAT

The Mayo Clinic advises getting the vaccine to protect yourself against COVID-19 and to reduce the severity of the illness. As of this reporting, roughly 56% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated (via Our World in Data).