Background With the aim of providing a dynamic evaluation of the effects of basic environmental parameters on COVID-19-related death rate, we assessed the correlation between average monthly high temperatures and population density, with death/rate (monthly number of deaths/1M people) for the months of March (start of the analysis and beginning of local epidemic in most of the Western World, except in Italy where it started in February) and April 2020 (continuation of the epidemic). Different geographical areas of the Northern Hemisphere in the United States and in Europe were selected in order to provide a wide range among the different parameters. The death rates were gathered from an available dataset. As a further control, we also included latitude, as a proxy for temperature.
Methods Utilizing a publicly available dataset, we retrieved data for the months of March and April 2020 for 25 areas in Europe and in the US. We computed the monthly number of deaths/1M people of confirmed COVID-19 cases and calculated the average monthly high temperatures and population density for all these areas. We determined the correlation between number of deaths/1M people and the average monthly high temperatures, the latitude and the population density.
Results We divided our analysis in two parts: analysis of the correlation among the different variables in the month of March and subsequent analysis in the month of April. The differences were then evaluated. In the month of March there was no statistical correlation between average monthly high temperatures of the considered geographical areas and number of deaths/1M people. However, a statistically significant inverse correlation became significant in the month of April between average monthly high temperatures (p=0.0043) and latitude (p=0.0253) with number of deaths/1M people. We also observed a statistically significant correlation between population density and number of deaths/1M people both in the month of March (p=0.0297) and in the month of April (p=0.0116), when three areas extremely populated (NYC, Los Angeles and Washington DC) were included in the calculation. Once these three areas were removed, the correlation was not statistically significant (p=0.1695 in the month of March, and p=0.7076 in the month of April).
Conclusions The number of COVID-19-related deaths/1M people was essentially the same during the month of March for all the geographical areas considered, indicating essentially that the infection was circulating quite uniformly except for Lombardy, Italy, where it started earlier. Lockdown measures were implemented between the end of March and beginning of April, except for Italy which started March 9th. We observed a strong, statistically significant inverse correlation between average monthly high temperatures with the number of deaths/1M people. We confirmed the data by analyzing the correlation with the latitude, which can be considered a proxy for high temperature. Previous studies indicated a negative effect of high climate temperatures on Sars-COV-2 spreading. Our data indicate that social distancing measure are more successful in the presence of higher average monthly temperatures in reducing COVID-19-related death rate, and a high level of population density seems to negatively impact the effect of lockdown measures.