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The role of environmental factors on transmission rates of the COVID-19 outbreak: an initial assessment in two spatial scales

First identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has affected over 16,800,000 people worldwide as of July 29, 2020 and was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. Influenza studies have shown that influenza viruses survive longer on surfaces or in droplets in cold and dry air, thus increasing the likelihood of subsequent transmission. A similar hypothesis has been postulated for the transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It is important to propose methodologies to understand the effects of environmental factors on this ongoing outbreak to support decision-making pertaining to disease control. 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 (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 counts without the implementation of drastic public health interventions.

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