The COVID-19 pandemic has infected almost 73 million people and is responsible for over 1.63 million fatalities worldwide since early December 2019, when it was first reported in Wuhan, China. In the early stages of the pandemic, social distancing measures, such as lockdown restrictions, were applied in a non-uniform way across the world to reduce the spread of the virus. While such restrictions contributed to flattening the curve in places like Italy, Germany, and South Korea, it plunged the economy in the United States to a level of recession not seen since WWII, while also improving air quality due to the reduced mobility. Using daily Earth observation data (Day/Night Band (DNB) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Suomi-NPP and NO2
measurements from the TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument TROPOMI) along with monthly averaged cell phone derived mobility data, we examined the economic and environmental impacts of lockdowns in Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Washington DC from February to April 2020—encompassing the most profound shutdown measures taken in the U.S. The preliminary analysis revealed that the reduction in mobility involved two major observable impacts: (i) improved air quality (a reduction in NO2
concentration), but (ii) reduced economic activity (a decrease in energy consumption as measured by the radiance from the DNB data) that impacted on gross domestic product, poverty levels, and the unemployment rate. With the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases and declining economic conditions, such knowledge can be combined with unemployment and demographic data to develop policies and strategies for the safe reopening of the economy while preserving our environment and protecting vulnerable populations susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited