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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday to keep air quality standards for soot pollution unchanged from 2012.

Why it matters: This action has relevance to today's pandemic, according to Axios energy reporter Amy Harder. Scientists say soot air pollution exacerbates the effects of respiratory diseases, like the one caused by the coronavirus.

The big picture: Particulate matter — tiny bits of pollution that comesfrom a range of sources, including fuel combustion and indoor sources — is associated with acute cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

What they're saying:

“The U.S. has made incredible strides in reducing particulate matter concentrations across the nation. Based on review of the scientific literature and recommendation from our independent science advisors, we are proposing to retain existing PM standards which will ensure the continued protection of both public health and the environment.”
— EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler

But, but, but: The decision also goes against the advice of EPA air staffers, who found that the existing limits may be allowing thousands of premature deaths each year, E&E News reports.

One level deeper: The announcement regarding the standards, officially called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, comes just a week after Harvard released a study that found higher levels of the small particulate matter, known as PM2.5, were associated with higher rates of death from COVID-19.

Go deeper: The pandemic and pollution

Go deeper

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

7 hours ago - Health

Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.