The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, has been rapidly increasing in the United States. Boroughs of New York City, including Queens county, turn out to be the epicenters of this infection. According to the data provided by the New York State Department of Health, most of the cases of new COVID-19 infections in New York City have been found in the Queens county where 42,023 people have tested positive, and 3221 people have died as of 20 April 2020. Person-to-person transmission and travels were implicated in the initial spread of the outbreaks, but factors related to the late phase of rapidly spreading outbreaks in March and April are still uncertain. A few previous studies have explored the links between air pollution and COVID-19 infections, but more data is needed to understand the effects of short-term exposures of air pollutants and meteorological factors on the spread of COVID-19 infections, particularly in the U.S. disease epicenters. In this study, we have focused on ozone and PM2.5, two major air pollutants in New York City, which were previously found to be associated with respiratory viral infections. The aim of our regression modeling was to explore the associations among ozone, PM2.5, daily meteorological variables (wind speed, temperature, relative humidity, absolute humidity, cloud percentages, and precipitation levels), and COVID-19 confirmed new cases and new deaths in Queens county, New York during March and April 2020. The results from these analyses showed that daily average temperature, daily maximum eight-hour ozone concentration, average relative humidity, and cloud percentages were significantly and positively associated with new confirmed cases related to COVID-19; none of these variables showed significant associations with new deaths related to COVID-19. The findings indicate that short-term exposures to ozone and other meteorological factors can influence COVID-19 transmission and initiation of the disease, but disease aggravation and mortality depend on other factors.
Keywords: COVID-19; PM2.5; SARS-CoV-2; air pollution; coronavirus; humidity; meteorological factors; ozone; respiratory viral infections; temperature.