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Wildfires and Covid

Actual image of my city blanketed in smoke.

If you live in the west then there’s a good bet that the air outside is almost unbreathable. In my state, our air quality has been so terrible that I can’t see the mountains – which are quite literally 3 miles away from my house. The air is so terrible because of the number of wildfires burning…well…*gestures around*. I’m a runner, and in the last 30 days I’ve maybe had 3-4 green quality air days.

This isn’t anything new, I’ve already talked about the wildfires in the west. However, what you may have missed in the whirlwind of news this weekend is that wildfire smoke is linked to worsened cases of Covid.

Yep. That’s right. The air is killing me, and if I happen to catch Covid, the wildfire smoke that I’ve been breathing has the ability to make my sickness worse.

When there’s smoke in the air, especially this much smoke, you breathe in “fine particulate matter.” You may be familiar with this term, because in the rush to start school, you’re looking into masks that help filter out the “fine particles” (you know, so you don’t get Covid). A recently published study found that “on average a daily increase of 10 µg/m3 in PM2.5 each day for 28 subsequent days was associated with an 11.7 percent increase in COVID-19 cases, and an 8.4 percent increase in COVID-19 deaths.” Which, to me feels a little terrifying.

Ok…so what?

That 11.7 percent increase in Covid cases wasn’t caused by the smoke, but it did make catching Covid worse, which is important. As someone who can look out her window to see smoke…I also don’t really have a solution. You can’t do something about a fire three states away from you. You can’t really do anything about a fire in your state (except don’t be dumb and start one).

What you can do is wear a mask outside. Do you have KN-95’s? Awesome, wear them when you walk around the block. Don’t go running or do heavy exercise when the air quality is bad. Get vaccinated, wear masks to lower your risk of Covid.

But, also…be aware. If the smoke is bad outside, that means you likely have an increased risk of Covid, so do your kids, so does your community. I know it’s an old refrain, but vote. In the past two years we’ve really seen how much local elections matter. Vote for the people who will help enact policies that help ease our changing climate, that protect our communities, and protect our health.

By mshipstory

Hi!

I'm Lindsay Adams. I'm passionate about history, teaching, and writing.

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