God is in the Rain: The Impact of Rainfall-Induced Early Social Distancing on COVID-19 Outbreaks
35 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2020
Date Written: May 19, 2020
We test whether earlier social distancing affects the progression of a local COVID-19 outbreak. We exploit county-level rainfall on the last weekend before statewide lockdown. After controlling for state fixed-effects, temperature, and historical rainfall, current rainfall is a plausibly exogenous instrument for social distancing. Early distancing causes a reduction in cases and deaths that persists for weeks. The effect is driven by a reduction in the chance of a very large outbreak. The result suggests early distancing may have sizable returns, and that random events early in an outbreak can have persistent effects on its course.
Funding: None to Declare
Declaration of Interest: Kinpritma Sangha Consults with pharmaceutical companies. Did not receive any funding or compensation for this work. All other authors none to declare.
Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, social distancing, rainfall
JEL Classification: I12, I18, H75
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation