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Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Coronavirus patients in more polluted parts of the United States are more likely to die from the illness than those in cleaner areas, according to a new Harvard University analysis of 3,080 counties across the country.

Why it matters: The study indicates a correlation between long-term exposure to air pollution and heightened death rates associated with the virus. Its findings could impact how medical resources necessary to respond to the virus are being distributed throughout the U.S., per the New York Times.

The big picture: The new analysis demonstrated that even slight increases in the level of particle pollution — much of which comes from fuel combustion, as well as indoor sources — had negative impacts associated with COVID-19.

By the numbers:

  • Someone who has lived for decades in a county with such dangerous levels of pollution, called PM 2.5, is 15% more likely to die from the coronavirus than an individual in an area with one fewer unit of pollution from the particulate matter.
  • Lowering the average particulate matter in Manhattan by a single unit over the last 20 years would have resulted in 248 fewer COVID-19 deaths to date, the study indicates.

How it works: To conduct the study, researchers collected data on particulate matter from more than 3,000 counties over the past 17 years. They compiled COVID-19 death statistics through April 4 from each county, using data from Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

  • The researchers also conducted six secondary analyses to adjust for outside factors that could influence the results.
  • The study will need to be confirmed by further analyses, since it can only determine a causal connection without examining individual patient data, its head researcher told the Times.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Amy Harder: Expect scrutiny of these links between air pollution and the pandemic to increase as President Trump continues to curtail pollution standards, including last week's rollback of auto efficiency standards.

The bottom line: “The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” the research said.

Go deeper: How climate change and wildlife influence the coronavirus

Go deeper

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election in 2022

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) speaking during a press conference in November 2021. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), a moderate who typically ranks as one of the nation's most popular governors, said Wednesday that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito (R) will not seek third terms in 2022.

Why it matters: The decision leaves the gubernatorial race wide open and will likely affect multiple down-ballot races next year. Baker was expected to be the front-runner had he joined the race.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.