ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As wildfire smoke nears a stage where it might be considered a ‘new normal’ according to health and climate experts, a new question arises for some.
What should we be doing to lower our risk, and will it have as much of an impact on daily life as COVID did?
The short answer according to Dr. Michael Mendoza, the Public Health Commissioner for Monroe County, is no.
“If you’re looking for something that’s as broad sweeping as what we had during covid. I don’t see that happening because […] we’re not dealing with a communicable illness. This is a very personal situation between you and your environment,” said Dr. Mendoza.
How to handle the increase in smoke has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Even for those with chronic illnesses, such as asthma or COPD, it’s not a one size fits all criterion. Dr. Mendoza also remarked it’s important that you don’t get lost in the numbers when it comes to the Air Quality Index.
“There’s nothing magical about [a] 151 [AQI reading] so you have to look at you know your overall circumstances. So if you look at our guidance, the first paragraph in each of these categories is the same paragraph,” said Dr. Mendoza.
The guidance, released on Wednesday, June 28, also gets more specific for each group of Air Quality Index numbers, such as 151 to 200 ‘Unhealthy’, 201-300 ‘Unhealthy for All’, and 301+ ‘Hazardous’. Each section offered advice on how to handle outdoor events, outdoor work, youth sports, and outdoor summer camps.
For those who suffer from any type of chronic ailment, Dr. Mendoza offered some more pointed advice:
“There are people who are on medications appropriately treated. Have a good understanding of what to do if they start to have symptoms and generally, if you know you’re that person you take precautions will be fine,” said Dr. Mendoza. “But it’s those people who aren’t sure or maybe at risk just because even though they’re well managed with the medications, their illnesses are so severe that it makes it difficult. You know those are the kinds of decisions that you need to make with your healthcare provider.”
When it comes to masks, Dr. Mendoza noted that the reason why we need to wear them is very different this time around.
“You know the mask isn’t to protect yourself from something that somebody else might have. This is literally to protect you from the air you’re breathing,” said Dr. Mendoza.