Worsening air quality plagues Bay Area

Air quality uncertainty limits socialization


Josh Edelson (Public Domain)

California fires sparked by lightning strikes have been burning for a week. The smoke has hindered outdoor activity and social interaction.

Paige Retajczyk, Senior Reporter

WEB EXCLUSIVE For students already dealing with limited social interactions, the declining air quality from the recent California fires creates a greater sense of isolation.

Since the shelter-in-place orders in March, students have worked around social distancing limitations. Some teens may go to the beach or walk in Golden Gate Park, however, the poor air quality limits outdoor activity and interaction. 

“I’ve been hanging out with friends socially distanced at the beach and the park,” sophomore Josie Flannagan said. “I’ve definitely noticed less people have been outside because of the air quality.”

For some, exercise has been an outlet for destressing during this time of isolation. According to junior Eliza Spaht, she now finds exercise difficult. 

“The fires have affected my asthma greatly,” Spaht said. “When I go outside, it is much harder to breathe, especially when I’m trying to exercise.”

Not only is the air quality affecting vulnerable people with health conditions, but also those involved in sports or extracurricular activities. Over the summer, junior Avery Stout’s soccer team has continued practice outside, but the recent air quality has led to cancellations.

“Recently I’ve been playing soccer socially distanced,” Stout said. “With the recent poor air quality, some of my practices have been postponed.”

Fire outbreaks in Santa Clara and Sonoma County have caused poor air quality in San Francisco according to FireCA.gov. Although San Francisco County’s air quality is categorized as moderate, in places beyond the city like Marin, the air quality is categorized as unhealthy for some.

“I’ve definitely noticed a difference when I drive into the city,” Stout said. “In Marin it definitely smells more smokey.”

San Francisco County’s air quality has fluctuated from green to red on any given day. This uncertainty has made it hard to make plans to go outside, according to Flannagan.

“It’s hard for me to make plans with my friends who are sensitive to the air,” Flannagan said. “The air quality and COVID-19 has been hard socially.”