We examine the relationship between contemporaneous fine particulate matter exposure and COVID-19 morbidity and mortality using an instrumental variable approach. Harnessing daily changes in county-level wind direction, we show that arguably exogenous fluctuations in local air quality impact the incidence of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. We find that a one g/m increase in PM 2.5, or 15% of the average PM 2.5 concentration in a county, increases the number of same-day confirmed cases by 1.8% from the mean case incidence in a county. A one g/m increase in PM 2.5 increases the same-day death rate by just over 4% from the mean. These effects tend to increase in magnitude over longer time horizons and are robust to a host of sensitivity tests. When analyzing potential mechanisms, we also demonstrate that an additional unit of PM 2.5 increases COVID-19-related hospitalizations by 0.8% and use of intensive care units by 0.5% on the same day. Using individual case records, we also show that higher PM 2.5 exposure at the time of case confirmation increases risk of later mechanical ventilation and mortality. These results suggest that air pollution plays an important role in mediating the severity of respiratory syndromes such as COVID-19.

Wes Austin, Stefano Carattini, John Gomez-Mahecha, Michael F. Pesko, The effects of contemporaneous air pollution on COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Volume 119, 2023, 102815, ISSN 0095-0696,

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