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COVID-19 Mortality and Contemporaneous Air Pollution

Wes Austin, Stefano Carattini, John Gomez Mahecha and Michael Pesko ()
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Wes Austin: Georgia State University, USA
John Gomez Mahecha: Georgia State University, USA

International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU from International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University

Abstract: We examine the relationship between contemporaneous fine particulate matter exposure and COVID-19 morbidity and mortality using an instrumental variable approach based on wind direction. Harnessing daily changes in county-level wind direction, we show that arguably exogenous fluctuations in local air quality impact the rate of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19. In our preferred high dimensional fixed effects specification with state-level policy and social distancing controls, we find that a one µg=m^3 increase in PM 2.5 increases the number of confirmed cases by roughly 2% from the mean case rate in a county. These effects tend to increase in magnitude over longer time horizons, being twice as large over a 3-day period. Meanwhile, a one µg=m^3 increase in PM 2.5 increases the same-day death rate by 3% from the mean. Our estimates are robust to a host of sensitivity tests. These results suggest that air pollution plays an important role in mediating the severity of respiratory syndromes such as COVID-19, for which progressive respiratory failure is the primary cause of death, and that policy levers to improve air quality may lead to improvements in COVID-19 outcomes.

Pages: 42 pages
Date: 2020-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ene, nep-env and nep-hea
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