High Temperature and High Humidity Reduce the Transmission of COVID-19
33 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2020 Last revised: 22 May 2020
Date Written: March 9, 2020
With the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19, a question is whether the coming summer in the northern hemisphere will reduce the transmission intensity of COVID-19 with increased humidity and temperature. In this paper, we investigate this problem using the data from the cases with symptom-onset dates from January 19 to February 10, 2020 for 100 Chinese cities, and cases with confirmed dates from March 15 to April 25 for 1,005 U.S. counties. Statistical analysis is performed to assess the relationship between the transmissibility of COVID-19 and the temperature/humidity, by controlling for various demographic, socio-economic, geographic, healthcare and policy factors and correcting for cross-sectional correlation. We find a similar influence of the temperature and relative humidity on effective reproductive number (R values) of COVID-19 for both China and the U.S. before lockdown in both countries: one-degree Celsius increase in temperature reduces R value by about 0.023 (0.026 (95% CI [-0.0395,-0.0125]) in China and 0.020 (95% CI [-0.0311, -0.0096]) in the U.S.), and one percent relative humidity rise reduces R value by 0.0078 (0.0076 (95% CI [-0.0108,-0.0045]) in China and 0.0080 (95% CI [-0.0150,-0.0010]) in the U.S.). If assuming a 30 degree and 25 percent increase in temperature and relative humidity from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere, we expect the R values to decline about 0.89 (0.69 by temperature and 0.20 by humidity). Moreover, after the lockdowns in China and the U.S., temperature and relative humidity still play an important role in reducing the R values but to a less extent. Given the notion that the non-intervened R values are around 2.5 to 3, only weather factors cannot make the R values below their critical condition of R<1, under which the epidemic diminishes gradually. Therefore, public health intervention such as social distancing is crucial to block the transmission of COVID-19 even in summer.
Note: Funding: This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (2019YFB2102100 to Jingyuan Wang) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61572059 and 71531001 to Jingyuan Wang and U1811463 to Weifeng Lv).
Declaration of Interest: There is no competing interest declaration for all authors.
Keywords: COVID-19, Transmission, Effective Reproductive Number, Temperature, Humidity
JEL Classification: I1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation