Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 May 2021
The global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has altered entire nations and their health systems. The greatest impact of the pandemic has been seen among vulnerable populations, such as those with comorbidities like heart diseases, kidney failure, obesity, or those with worse health determinants such as unemployment and poverty. In the current study, we are proposing previous exposure to fine-grained volcanic ashes as a risk factor for developing COVID-19. Based on several previous studies it has been known since the mid 1980s of the past century that volcanic ash is most likely an accelerating factor to suffer from different types of cancer, including lung or thyroid cancer. Our study postulates, that people who are most likely to be infected during a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) widespread wave will be those with comorbidities that are related to previous exposure to volcanic ashes. We have explored 8703 satellite images from the past 21 y of available data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database and correlated them with the data from the national institute of health statistics in Ecuador. Additionally, we provide more realistic numbers of fatalities due to the virus based on excess mortality data of 2020-2021, when compared with previous years. This study would be a very first of its kind combining social and spatial distribution of COVID-19 infections and volcanic ash distribution. The results and implications of our study will also help countries to identify such aforementioned vulnerable parts of the society, if the given geodynamic and volcanic settings are similar.