Wildfire smoke creates more risks during COVID-19 pandemic

With wildfires burning throughout the state,  the air quality is suffering. Health officials agree, the timing is terrible.

Normally, they would recommend people wear N95 masks to protect themselves from the smoke particles. They are asking people to take other precautions instead and to save the masks for first responders and medical professionals.

State health officials acknowledge the recommendations to keep yourself safe from wildfire smoke, conflict with preventing the spread of COVID-19.

"When air quality is bad, stay indoors, close windows to keep air clean indoors. But we also know with COVID if you’re indoors and you don’t have good ventilation and you’re with multiple other people, that can increase the risk of COVID transmission, "said Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer with the Washington State Department of Health.

The air quality was so poor in Snohomish County it forced the health department to close it’s two coronavirus testing sites. The location at the Lynnwood Food Bank closed Tuesday. The site in Everett near the Aqua Sox stadium was closed again Wednesday. They hope to re-open on Thursday.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is monitoring the levels which returned to moderate in some areas on Wednesday. They expect levels to increase Wednesday night. Later in the week they think the winds could shift and send more smoke from Oregon.

“We may be getting some smoke from Oregon which has much bigger and thicker smoke than we have so we might be in for another dose of it,” said Phil Swartzendruber, Ph. D., an air quality scientist at Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Doctors are warning people with lung issues to take extra precautions.

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