Wildfire Smoke Impacts on COVID-19 Cases and Deaths: A preliminary analysis in California

Authors: Qian Huang*, University of South Carolina
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Biogeography
Keywords: COVID-19, wildfire, California, AQI
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 16
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Wildfires change the weather conditions and environment significantly, facilitating the transmission of infectious diseases. And its smoke increases the risk for respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous system diseases. This paper examines the effect of wildfire allied pollutants, using Air Quality Index (AQI) values from the EPA, on the dynamics of confirmed cases, deaths, and testing of COVID-19 for California from January 26th to November 14th, 2020. This study first describes the pattern of the newly confirmed cases per week across the state and further compares them to AQI changes. The newly confirmed COVID-19 cases remained under 20,000 until Memorial Day weekend (epi week 23), then exponentially increased during the early summer, slowly declining thereafter, and increasing again since late October. The state average AQI value per epi week remained under 40 until epi week 33 where it began to increase greatly in the next few weeks, peaking in epi week 37 (September 6th- 12th) at the time when several large wildfires were reported. These two contradicted trends confirmed California’s coronavirus testing capability decreased due to wildfires. Second, the paper suggests that the average AQI values are significantly positively correlated with the COVID-19 cases and mortalities per 100,000 population, supporting the hypothesis that the wildfire allied pollutants resulted in an increase in the COVID-19 cases and deaths in California.

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