Giving Compass' Take:

• A recent report from Harvard University indicates that cities in the U.S. that have high levels of air pollution are linked to COVID-19-related deaths. 

• Respiratory symptoms common to the COVID-19 infection are exacerbated by poor air quality. What can cities that are at risk do to prepare or address poor air quality?

• Learn about the current risks of air pollution in U.S. cities. 

Areas in the United States that had high levels of air pollution before the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) are more likely to see patients die from the infection during its spread, according to a new report from Harvard University.

Researchers at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed 3,080 counties in the United States and found that an increase of just 1 microgram per cubic meter of fine particulate matter (air pollution also known as PM 2.5) led to a 15% increase in death rates, even when factoring in smoking, the weather and population density.

Harvard says this is the first study to make an explicit link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths, though experts have argued for some time that related respiratory symptoms can be exacerbated by poor air quality.

And this is not the first time an epidemic's worst effects have been linked to high levels of air pollution. The researchers wrote their findings "are consistent with findings that air pollution exposure dramatically increased the risk of death during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which is caused by another type of coronavirus."

City leaders should be concerned about their air quality, based on previous findings that paint a gloomy picture of the level of pollutants. A report earlier this year from Environment America, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Frontier Group found that one-third of Americans live in regions that saw more than 100 days with unhealthy air quality in 2018.

Read the full article about air quality by Chris Teale at Smart Cities Dive.