A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December 2019 and has caused over 240,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide as of March 19, 2020. Previous studies have supported an epidemiological hypothesis that cold and dry environments facilitate the survival and spread of droplet-mediated viral diseases, and warm and humid environments see attenuated viral transmission (e.g., influenza). However, the role of temperature and humidity in transmission of COVID-19 has not yet been established. Here, we examine the spatial variability of the basic reproductive numbers of COVID-19 across provinces and cities in China and show that environmental variables alone cannot explain this variability. Our findings suggest that changes in weather alone (i.e., increase of temperature and humidity as spring and summer months arrive in the Northern Hemisphere) will not necessarily lead to declines in case count without the implementation of extensive public health interventions.
Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus Wuhan; digital epidemiology; machine learning; machine learning in public health; modeling disease outbreaks; precision public health.