Another sign of times being turned upside down: On hot sunny days, motorists normally look for shady spots to park their car when out shopping or running errands. At home, too, cooler places are premium parking spots.
But with the novel coronavirus still among us, one way to reduce the risk of contagion is apparently to do the opposite.
Indeed, new research from the University of Georgia suggests that extreme heat inside a car parked in the sun, caused by short-wave sun rays coming through the windows, could help kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
On a "cooler" day with a mercury reading of 21 degrees Celsius, the temperature inside a car can reach 45 degrees in just one hour. On a 27-degree day, it climbs to 51 degrees in the same amount of time. The same effect that can cause heat stroke and death of multicellular organisms seems to be as nefarious for the coronavirus.
A statement detailing the university team’s findings indicates that heat greatly reduces the time it takes for surfaces containing the virus to become disinfected. While the virus can live on paper and cardboard for about a day and on plastic and stainless steel for three days at an ambient temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, 55-degree heat kills 99.99% of the virus in about 20 minutes. At 66 degrees Celsius, that shrinks to just 5 minutes.
For packaging and face masks that are not heat-sensitive, one day in the sun could be enough to significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. The findings also show that since heat rises to 54 degrees Celsius in a dryer, putting your masks in the dryer may also be enough to disinfect them.
“More testing needs to be done, but we know that the warmer you make it, the less time it takes for the virus to die,” explained Travis Glenn, professor of environmental health science at the University of Georgia. “We are all being encouraged to wear face masks when we are shopping or doing other essential tasks outside our homes. Parked cars get pretty hot on sunny days. So, you can... rotate two masks, leaving one in the car while you shop.”
We can only hope it’s no longer necessary to remind everyone that the virus-killing effect of the heat inside a vehicle is altogether different on humans, and that it’s dangerous, potentially even fatal, to stay inside a car for too long in hot weather. But in these strange times, we choose to remind our reader anyways…