Correlation between shutdowns and CO levels across the United States.

(1) American High School, Fremont, California, USA, (2) University of Texas Arlington, Arlington, Texas, USA

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We conducted research in Summer 2020 to analyze the effect of the shutdown orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the carbon monoxide (CO) levels across the United States. The effects of these lockdowns have not yet been entirely studied, but they have caused wide-spread lifestyle changes. Since the shutdown orders during the pandemic prevented most public places from conducting any kind of business, we hypothesized that CO levels would drop as there was no commute, fewer buildings being used, and fewer people traveling as much as they previously would. We collected publicly available data from the EPA’s Daily Air Quality Data and analyzed in R. We selected the 15 states based on the greatest number of coronavirus cases on August 20th, 2020. Each state had a mean value of CO concentration for each date that the data was available in the sites that was an average of multiple recorded values across counties in the state. In almost every state, the CO levels went down starting from February, with the lowest CO levels during the shutdown, indicating that the shutdown likely could have led to a decrease in CO levels. Since some states saw CO levels start to drop before the shutdown orders were enacted, the absence of people on roads and the lack of human activity due to concerns over the spread of the virus in general could have also been a contributing factor. As some states opened and restrictions eased, the CO level started rising then fluctuated again, similar to before the shutdowns.

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