New research by a UCLA-led team yesterday announced, long-term exposure to poor air quality increased the risk of COVID-19 in the United States in 2020.
According to a Fox 11 report, the study found that nations with greater exposures to poor air quality historically, saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates last year at the county level, with a 7.6 percent increase in COVID-19 risk, with a single-unit rise of 2.5 micrometers.
The use of preventative measures, like stay-at-home guidelines and masking protocols, reduced the risk of the virus by 15 percent and eight percent respectively, although they did not lessen the risk of occurrence in counties that have poor air quality.
Distinguished professor of epidemiology and associate dean for research at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang said, this is proof that long-term exposure to poor air quality augmented the risk of Covid-19 during each surge, and cumulatively, in the US.
More so, the professor added, even though both state-level implementation of face masks orders, as well as stay-at-home guidelines, were effective in the prevention of the spread of the virus, no clear impacts had been observed, when it comes to long-term exposure to fine particulate matter.
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Importance of Air Quality Improvement
The study, Long-Term Exposure to PM2.5, Facemask Mandates, Stay Home Orders and COVID-19 Incidence in the United States, is published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
According to UCLA distinguished professor of public health, public policy, and medicine, and a study co-author, Dr. Jody Heymann, both the importance of air quality improvement, as well as the protective measures need to be considered as among the lessons learned from this global health crisis for policymakers and the public.
Heymann, a physician and public policy expert serving as director of the WORLD Policy Analysis Center of FSPH, added, the burden of environmental risks is totally unequal in the US, as well as in the whole world.
Such a study, continued the expert, raises intense concerns about one more approach that exposure to air pollutants can be elevated, likely, has serious implications for the health of all those in the US, and fuels the health inequities communities of colors and low-income communities.
Link Between Healthy Environment and COVID-19
There is an urgent need to reduce the long-term exposure to look for particulate matter for individuals who have the greatest exposure in the country and to develop a healthy environment throughout all locations where adults are living and working, and children learning and playing.
Approximately 3,096 countries nationwide were involved in the research. As of September 2020, the average occurrence of COVID-19 in the US was 2.6 percent.
Counties that have COVID-19 occurrence greater than the national median had higher average fine particulate matter concentrations, earlier incidences of the first case, more tests administered, and were less possible to reopen.
According to FSPH epidemiology and pathology professor Dr. Jianyu Rao, the health issues, in turn, seem to be linked to increased vulnerability to COVID-19 via chronic respiratory inflammation, which inclines individuals to the virus and increased susceptibility to any viral infection.
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