Researchers at UCLA announced Thursday that they have been awarded a contract to study connections between air pollution and the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re really interested in seeing whether long-term exposure to air pollution makes someone more likely to have a worse prognosis after they do get COVID-19,” said Michael Jerrett, a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of environmental health sciences, who serves as the team’s principal investigator.

Jerrett noted that researchers are “hypothesizing that people who live in areas with worse air quality in southern California are more likely to experience severe illness than people who live in areas with cleaner air” and that advanced exposure modeling will allow them to “hone in on the specific types of air pollution that could make people more likely to be admitted to be admitted to intensive care, or to die.”

The information is also expected to allow investigators to examine whether exposure gradients along socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity are partly responsible for a worse prognosis of some patient groups, along with examining the impacts of pre-existing conditions.

The project is funded by the California Air Resources Board, which agreed to allot more than $600,000 to the research effort that will analyze information from Kaiser Permanente about patient outcomes in seven Southern California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego.

The research team — which is led by faculty members from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health — also includes scientists and doctors from UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

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