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A new study from Harvard found that greater exposure to air pollution is directly correlated with higher death rates from coronavirus.
Researchers from Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined 3,080 counties in the United States and measured the level of dangerous particulate matter in the air known as PM2.5. It found that a small increase in long-term exposure to PM.2.5 leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate.
Specifically, an increase in one unit of long-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate.
The paper represents the first nationwide study showing a statistical link between pollution and coronavirus death rates.
As of Monday evening, there were 68,776 confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City. At least 2,738 have died across the five boroughs.
Its analysis showed that had Manhattan lowered its PM2.5 by one unit, the borough could have expected to see 248 fewer COVID-19 deaths among the total of 1,905 deaths leading up to April 4th.
The Bronx, which has long been associated with air pollution and high rates of asthma, has had the highest fatality rate from coronavirus in the city. The borough is currently neck and neck with Queens in per capita cases of coronavirus. The infection rate in the Bronx is 927 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 928 cases per 100,000 people in Queens, according to the city’s most recent data. As of 5:30 p.m. on Monday, the city had confirmed 679 coronavirus deaths in the Bronx and 876 coronavirus deaths in Queens.
The City recently reported that those infected with coronavirus die at a rate three times higher than residents in Manhattan.
Across the globe, pollution levels have fallen due to drops in travel and industrial activity in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The results of this study also underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations during the COVID-19 crisis,” the authors wrote. “Based on our result, we anticipate a failure to do so can potentially increase the COVID-19 death toll and hospitalizations, further burdening our healthcare system and drawing resources away from COVID-19 patients.”