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Flames rise during the fire in the village of Peyki as firefigters and residents continue to respond on the fifth day of a wildfire in the area north of the island of Evia, Greece, on Aug. 8. Photo: Dimitris Lampropoulos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Exposure to high levels of fine particle pollution produced by wildfires may have led to thousands more COVID cases and deaths, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Why it matters: Research has shown that smoke can have dangerous health impacts, a correlation that is putting more and more at risk as the pandemic collides with the climate crisis.

Details: Researchers tracked more than 90 counties in California and Washington that were ravaged by wildfires last year, and found that nearly 20% of COVID cases in certain counties were linked to elevated levels of wildfire smoke.

  • In some counties, an even higher percentage of COVID deaths could be associated with wildfire smoke.
  • Their models accounted for other variables, including weather, population and general COVID trends, to control for factors that might influence the findings.
  • "Scientists who study air quality say it is possible that smoke particles could carry the virus," the Washington Post writes. "There are also other possible dynamics involved, such as people tending to gather indoors to avoid wildfire smoke, which could lead to more interaction with infected people."

What they're saying: "This illustrates the systemic and contingent nature of crises and how the effects of one global crisis (climate change) can have cascading effects on concurrent global crises (the COVID-19 pandemic) that play out in location-specific ways (increased COVID-19 cases and deaths due to wildfire)," the authors wrote in the study.

The big picture: Climate change is increasingly inducing wildfires, and they won't stop anytime soon. Rapid global warming is reaching across the globe and making the world a more volatile place, per a recent UN-sponsored report.

Go deeper: In photos: Where wildfires are blazing around the world

Go deeper

Updated 21 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate entire Brazilian city as part of study — FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adultsU.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers on Nov. 8.
  2. Health: New cases down, but the West is at risk — Low vaccination rates exacerbate America's caregiving crisis — COVID is here to stay. So what does "victory" look like? — FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill.
  3. Politics: NHL announces all but four players have been vaccinated — WHO names new advisory group on COVID origins — Biden admin warns Moderna to "step up" global vaccine supply.
  4. Education: LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations amid staffing shortage — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive — Arizona can't use aid for anti-mask education grants, Treasury says.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Minnesota National Guard to assist with hospital staffing shortages

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on April 19. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced Friday that he'll put the Minnesota National Guard on alert to help ease staffing shortages at hospitals and care facilities due to the rise in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated residents in the state.

Driving the news: Over 400 Minnesota patients are currently waiting for beds to open up at other care centers as hospitals across the state have reported that they're at or close to reaching capacity, AP reports.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2021 - Health

FDA panel endorses shot of J&J booster for adults

Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Friday unanimously endorsed a booster shot for adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at least two months after the initial dose.

Why it matters: The advisory committee raised concerns about a dearth of data to support their decision but ultimately decided to support an additional shot for those over 18.

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