Wildfires could erode COVID-19 progress on West Coast

Wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 34 people on the West Coast could also hinder the region's progress in containing COVID-19, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Heavy smoke from the fires has forced many testing sites to close across the coast, while poor air quality warnings are pushing more people indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. 

Wildfire evacuations also complicate efforts to maintain social distancing, health experts told the Journal. For example, Oregon shelters are housing thousands of people sleeping on cots in close proximity without masks. In other cases, people are opting to mix households and stay with family or friends. 

The wildfires can also make it easier for the virus to spread from a physiological standpoint, according to Peter Chin-Hong, MD, an infectious disease physician at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center. Smoke can irritate COVID-19 patients' respiratory systems, causing them to cough more often, which releases the virus into the air. Healthy individuals may also be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 since irritation in the lining of the throat can make it "easier for the virus to land," Dr. Chin-Hong told the Journal.

Read the full article here.

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