MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties are now under an "air quality advisory" from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) due to smoke creeping north from wildfires in California.
"With the current weather patterns and wildfire activity in California, Jackson County will see intermittent levels of smoke that are moderate and unhealthy for sensitive groups," Jackson County said in a statement. "Ashland may experience higher levels of smoke than other parts of the county."
At this time, the advisory will last through at least Wednesday, according to the DEQ.
In Klamath County, air quality has already reached "Unhealthy" levels under the DEQ's air quality monitoring system, with Lakeview listed as "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups." As of Monday morning, air quality was still "Moderate" throughout Jackson County.
"People need to be observant of the air quality during this wildfire season; smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly depending on weather factors, including wind direction," Jackson County continued. "The overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic with wildfire season in the United States complicates public health response to wildfire smoke."
Public health officials say that wildfire smoke contains a mixture of air pollutants that are harmful to human health. Exposure to those pollutants can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Some recent scientific studies have suggested that air pollution can worsen COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes.
Populations known to be vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposures include:
- Children less than 18 years;
- Adults age 65 years or older;
- Pregnant women;
- People with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung disease, including asthma and diabetes;
- Outdoor workers;
- People of low socioeconomic status, including those who are homeless and with limited access to medical care.
- People who have had COVID-19 and are recovering from the virus
During a wildfire smoke event, Jackson County Public Health Officials advise people to take the following precautions:
- Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Be aware of smoke concentrations in your area
- Avoid smoke by staying indoors, and by closing windows and doors
- Avoid physical activity in smoky conditions
- Use air conditioning and air filter or cleaners, creating a cleaner air space inside a home.
- People exposed to smoky conditions and who suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems should follow their breathing management plans or contact their healthcare providers.
- It is currently not recommended to use N95 or P100 respirators to prevent smoke exposure, because these particulate respirators are in short supply and are needed by healthcare workers responding to COVID-19. The best way to reduce your exposure to wildfire smoke is to stay indoors.