This article was originally published here
Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Jul 30. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c02711. Online ahead of print.
Possible links between the transmission of COVID-19 and meteorology have been investigated by comparing positive cases across geographical regions or seasons. Little is known, however, about the degree to which environmental conditions modulate the daily dynamics of COVID-19 spread at a given location. One reason for this is that individual waves of the disease typically rise and decay too sharply, making it hard to isolate the contribution of meteorological cycles. To overcome this shortage, we here present a case study of the first wave of the outbreak in the city of Buenos Aires, which had a slow evolution of the caseload extending along most of 2020. We found that humidity plays a prominent role in modulating the variation of COVID-19 positive cases through a negative-slope linear relationship, with an optimal lag of 9 days between the meteorological observation and the positive case report. This relationship is specific to winter months, when relative humidity predicts up to half of the variance in positive case count. Our results provide a tool to anticipate possible local surges in COVID-19 cases after events of low humidity. More generally, they add to accumulating evidence pointing to dry air as a facilitator of COVID-19 transmission.