Local restaurants facing yet another hurdle - poor air quality

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- In Merced Destino's restaurant is open for outdoor dining, which they thought would be a step in the right direction after COVID-19 restrictions meant shutting down, then opting for takeout only.

Poor air quality is now the latest hurdle owners Tessa and Drew Williams face.

"It's been a struggle but I feel like we're just rolling with the punches everyday," says Tessa.

"Not just us but everyone around - we've done our best trying to adjust to everything and now we're facing another difficult obstacle," says Drew.

One customer, Chris Mealy, describes what it was like to eat outdoors:
"The ash is falling down, getting on people's food, it's heartbreaking."

The city of Merced has tried to help businesses by closing select streets on weekends to accommodate extended outdoor dining.

"You see how hard people work, care about their businesses and pour their lives into them and their jobs livelihoods and families... we want to support them," says Matthew Serratto with the city.

With air quality reaching hazardous levels, air district officials are warning people to limit their outdoor activity.

"Any kind of pm pollution will aggravate respiratory conditions - asthma, bronchitis, COPD, even COVID-19. If you have any respiratory conditions, please avoid being outdoors," says Healther Heinks with the Valley Air District.

Heinks says the particulate matter pollution carried by wildfire smoke is less than three tenths the size of dust particles.

"Level 5 is where we recommend everyone comes indoors, not just those that are sensitive with asthma, everyone should be indoors.

Something very important to note if you're wearing the mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 - don't think that means it's okay to spend more time outdoors. Most will not prevent you from inhaling particulate matter pollution," Heinks adds.
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