Air pollution made COVID-19 deadlier for Valley residents, finds new study

The study, conducted by researchers from the Public Health Institute and U.C. San Francisco, shows just how deadly the air can be.

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ByNic Garcia via KFSN logo
Thursday, August 11, 2022
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A new study finds that more than 4,000 people might have survived COVID-19 had the air quality been better during the first year of the pandemic.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new study finds that more than 4,000 people might have survived COVID-19 had the air quality been better during the first year of the pandemic.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Public Health Institute and U.C. San Francisco, shows just how deadly the air can be.

Paul English is one of the researchers and the director of Tracking California at the Public Health Institute. He says many people in the San Joaquin Valley and in Los Angeles and Orange counties were exposed to higher Particulate Matter 2.5.

Hispanic people and people in low-income communities were also disproportionately impacted.

"Those individuals had about a 20% increased risk of getting COVID in that one year we looked at data in 2020," said English.

The study found those people were also 50% more likely to die of COVID.

The study examined air quality and COVID cases in California from February 2020 to February 2021.

"I will tell you during the time of this study and since the outbreak of COVID we've seen a huge uptick in both the number and severity of wildfires that impact the Valley," said Jaime Holt from the San Joaquin Valley Air District.

One way you can protect yourself from dangerous air is by preparing for the remainder of fire season.

"Stay inside. Create a clean air room where the doors and windows are closed, you're not lighting any candles, you're not smoking. And hopefully you have the ability to get an air purifier," said Holt.

The Valley Air District has a special grant program right now offering free air purifiers to disadvantaged communities. You can find more information about that here.