Stay-at-home order clears streets, cleans air

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Better air quality. Light traffic on the 14 Freeway, Looking east from The Plaza at Golden Valley in Canyon Country on Wednesday, April, 15, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Coupled with the time of year and the recent rain, the air quality in the Santa Clarita Valley has drastically improved since the stay-at-home order was put in place March 19, according to air quality officials.

And those numbers have lent themselves to improved quality of health for everyone, especially those with pulmonary issues. However, officials are warning people to remain skeptical when people make a connection between improved air quality and a decreased chance of getting coronavirus.

The levels of nitrogen oxide have been steadily decreasing from the beginning of the year, according to recent data collected by the California Air Resources Board. Nitrogen oxide combines with ammonia and moisture to create harmful particulates that damage sensitive lung tissue.

For instance, the day with the highest levels of nitrogen oxide parts per million in February was 0.029 in comparison to April, which is 0.009. For comparison, this time last year the maximum in February was 0.023 and 0.014 in April.

Better air quality. Looking east from The Plaza at Golden Valley in Canyon Country on Wednesday, April, 15, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“The current clear skies provide a glimpse of the impact we humans have on our environment, but any cleaner air attributed to the COVID-19 shutdown will not last,” said David Clergen, a spokesman for California Air Resources Board. “However, it may help us design additional strategies to reduce the amount Californians drive.”

Recently, online theories have been propagated that link COVID-19 and air pollution rates within certain states, such as how “over 70% of COVID-19 cases and nearly 80% of all deaths have occurred in the top 20 polluting states,” according to a study published by QuoteWizard Insurance News on April 9.

Local doctors, though, are advising people to exercise skepticism when looking at these kinds of studies.

Better air quality due to light traffic on the Golden State 5 Freeway near Calgrove Boulevard in Newhall on Wednesday, April, 15, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Dr. Charanjit Saroa, a pulmonologist at the Valencia Pulmonary Medical Group, said Tuesday that while his patient totals have dropped nearly 50% since the stay-at-home order was enacted — attributing it to both improved air quality and the fact that his patients are worried about coming in — he has not yet seen a study linking pollution/air quality with the prevalence of COVID-19.

“The air quality is better because there is less exhaust, less smog and less cars on the road,” said Saroa. “But nobody knows the full details of the disease … scientists are still working on it.”
Saroa added that he has not heard yet of any conclusive proof between high air pollution rates and the prevalence of COVID-19, urging people to instead stop the spread of the pulmonary virus by following the advice of health professionals.

“Wear a cloth mask wherever you have to go, and go out only when you have to,” said Saroa. “Stay indoors until we see a decline in the infection rate.”

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