How wildfires make COVID more dangerous
By Julia Rosen
As the coronavirus continues its assault on the United States, it’s easy to forget about other hazards. But public health officials warn that it would be a mistake to ignore a related threat: wildfire smoke.
Smoke particles can also gunk up the hairlike cilia that clean our lungs, making it harder to clear out viruses. And both smoke and Covid take a toll on the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems. “It’s kind of a double whammy,” said Dr. Henderson, who holds a Ph.D. in environmental epidemiology. Together, these interactions could increase the number of people who contract Covid and make the disease more severe in those who do get sick, she said.
It’s not possible (or ecologically appropriate) to extinguish all wildfires, so we often have little choice but to cope with smoke. Experts say preparation is key, particularly for vulnerable individuals like children, older people, expectant mothers and those with underlying health conditions.
Community clean air shelters, which offer respite from smoke in normal years, are now risky because of the pandemic. So, public health officials advise staying home as much as possible, something we’re all too good at by now, with windows and doors closed.