Sep 16, 2020 - Health

West Coast wildfires heighten coronavirus risk

Photo: Getty Images

The wildfires raging in the West are obviously horrendous on their own, but they're also raising the risk of further coronavirus spread, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Between the lines: It's harder for people to take appropriate coronavirus precautions when they're being forced from their homes, or when the air quality is as bad as it is.

  • Thousands of Oregonians are staying at evacuation shelters, where they're allowed to sleep without masks. Other people have evacuated and are staying with friends and family, increasing household mingling.
  • Testing sites from Los Angeles to northern Washington have been forced to close due to smoke from the fires. County officials in Northern California are pressing the state to allow indoor dining at restaurants because of the poor air quality.
  • Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, told the WSJ that smoke also makes it easier for people to become infected by the virus by irritating the lining of their throats and making it "easier for the virus to land."

What they're saying: "We’re telling people to stay home, stay inside, close the windows” to maintain decent air quality, Jennifer Vines, health officer for Multnomah County, Oregon, told the Journal. "That goes against so much of our Covid messaging about good ventilation and taking activities outside to lower the risk of spread."

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