Expert: Weeks Of Unhealthy Air in California Raise Risk Of COVID-19

By , KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

Never before has the air quality been this bad for this long in Northern California, at least in modern history.

Two years ago the Camp Fire caused 10 days of bad air; the Bay Area is now on 25 days of smoke.

"Many of us are worried about the cumulative effects of these bad air days on health," said Dr. John Balmes, member of the California Air Resources Board and Public Health Professor at University of California, San Francisco and UC Berkeley. "The research shows that short-term exposure to this kind of smoke will increase emergency department visits and hospitalizations for exacerbations of heart and lung disease."

Even healthy people may experience difficult breathing, scratchy throats and eyes and headaches, and the long term impact of smoke exposure is still not known.

smoke in california
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"The thing that we’re most worried about in terms of healthy people is an increased risk of infection," Dr. Balmes explained, as smoke can increase chances of respiratory illness. "We’re worried about an increase in COVID-19 cases because of this wildfire smoke."

The smoke is expected to linger for several days.

Dr. Balmes said while the air quality is poor people should stay indoors with windows shut, run their ventilation systems on "recirculate" with MERV 13 air filters or higher or use portable HEPA air purifiers and make sure to wear N95 masks if you must go outside.

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