Could Friday’s snowstorm slow the spread of COVID-19?

BOSTON — In the midst of an Omicron-fueled coronavirus surge that is pushing hospital capacities to the brink, could Friday’s big snowstorm be just what the doctor ordered?

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, thinks the snow came at the perfect time.

“Anything to keep people home for a day actually is really a benefit,” Dr. Faust said. “One day can make a small difference, even by itself.”

Dr. Faust tweeted his optimism Thursday night, hours before 2022′s first major snowstorm: “This snowstorm is going to shut down half of Boston in a way that Covid never would these days. The <one day> impact on decreased spread on a Friday at this juncture could literally keep Boston hospitals from overflowing next week. Talk about fate taking a hand…”

2,637 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus in Massachusetts, according to the Dept. of Public Health. Of these patients, 421 were in intensive care units and 245 were intubated. The state’s seven-day weighted average of positive molecular tests increased to 23.02% Friday, up from 22.3% Thursday, DPH reported Friday.

Nearly one out of every four COVID-19 tests taken in Massachusetts is coming back positive, according to DPH’s latest COVID-19 data.

Dr. Faust believes sitting inside and not going to work or school—even for half a day—could help slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“[People] understand the need to stay home for snow day in a way that maybe we no longer feel like doing for coronavirus,” Dr. Faust said. “There have been studies in the past showing that weather events can actually stop the transmission of things like flu and other viruses.”

Matt Fox, Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Global Health at Boston University, agrees a snow day can help to certain extent but he’s not sure a single day will do much.

“I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to be the break that allows us to avoid overcrowding of hospitals,” Fox said. “I do think it’s going to have some reduction in transmission and we need everything we can get right now.”

And if Friday’s blast of snow does make a difference, when will it show up in the COVID-19 case numbers? Dr. Faust says we could notice a difference by next week. Fox believes it will be more like two weeks from now, if at all.

“Right now anything we can do, small things that we can do to reduce our interaction with people can add up to a big benefit,” Fox said.

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