Unhealthy air quality advisory announced, COVID-19 testing site closed for weekend

The sun, turned red by smoke from brush fires, is framed through the power lines along Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita on Thursday morning, September 10, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Due to the air quality warning for the Santa Clarita Valley being extended, the COVID-19 testing site at College of the Canyons was closed for the remainder of the weekend. 

In addition to a handful of other communities, the SCV was given another advisory about smoke inhalation being a risk factor and the result of the Bobcat Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest. 

The Bobcat Fire, as of Saturday, had burned 29,245 acres and was at 6% containment since it first started burning seven days ago. 

“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County, in a press release distributed Saturday. “If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases.”

“These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults and people with heart or lung diseases,” he added. 

At-risk groups have been advised to avoid unnecessary outdoor exposure and physical exertion. 

“Wildfire smoke is a mixture of small particles, gases and water vapor,” health officials said Friday. “Small particles are the primary health concern. These small particles can cause burning eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, headaches and illness (i.e., bronchitis).”

People can participate in indoor activities in areas with visible smoke, soot, or ash, as long as the air conditioning does not draw air from the outside, and windows and doors have been closed to protect the cleanliness of indoor air.

In addition to Public Health asking people to close their doors and windows, those conducting the drive-thru testing at the COC Valencia Campus parking lot have also temporarily shutdown operations for at least the weekend. 

Public Health officials said the decision to shut down the testing site for the day was due to hazardous and unhealthy air quality for both residents and staff at the testing sites. 

“The LA County Department of Health Services continues to closely monitor the updated air quality index and advisories issued by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and will regularly reassess the opening of the testing sites impacted by the local wildfires,” read a press release from the Public Health Department on Saturday. 

All residents who had a testing appointment at an impacted testing site will be notified to reschedule their appointment and same-day and next-day appointments are still available at testing sites across LA County.

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