New data show moderate increase in emergency department admissions due to asthma and other respiratory issues; state distributed thousands of masks to commuters and more than 400,000 masks to 30 counties and local leaders
√ NYS to refund cancellations of reservations at state recreation facilities this weekend out of abundance of caution and ongoing air quality concerns
Submitted by the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul updated New Yorkers on the ongoing statewide response to air quality issues caused by wildfires in eastern Canada. Forecasts show the New York City metropolitan area, Long Island and Western New York regions will be experiencing air quality that is unhealthy for sensitive groups, while Central New York, the Lower Hudson Valley, Upper Hudson Valley and Eastern Lake Ontario regions are experiencing moderate air quality.
"For more than a week, we have been sounding the alarm that air quality issues are serious and pose a threat to the health and well-being of New Yorkers," Hochul said. "Now, as conditions gradually improve and it becomes safer to be outdoors in many regions of the state, it's critical that New Yorkers continue to stay informed and take common-sense safety precautions to protect themselves and their families."
According to the NYSDOH Electronic Syndromic Surveillance System, there were 147 asthma-related emergency department visits to New York hospitals, not including New York City, on June 7, compared to an average of 80 for the five-day period June 1-6. Using data reported for "respiratory symptoms" on June 8 from Emergency Medical Services response data, which is a timely early-warning source, the Department of Health observed:
√ A statewide increase of 17.8% in the rates per 100,000 on Wednesday as compared to the average of the five-day period of June 1-5.
√ For the metropolitan NYC region, this increase was 28.4%, and for the Capital Region this was 12.4%
With current levels in impacted regions across New York state ranging from yellow to orange, the Department of Health is advising precautions as necessary. Steps for individuals to take to reduce risk, include:
√ When AQI is greater than 100, New Yorkers in vulnerable groups should avoid exertion outdoors and watch for symptoms when exposed to the outdoors. Vulnerable individuals include those with cardiovascular disease (e.g., congestive heart failure, history of prior heart attach) or lung disease (e.g., asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), as well as children under 18, adults 65 and older.
√ When AQI is greater than 150, all New Yorkers should avoid strenuous outdoor activities, and those in vulnerable groups should avoid exposure to the outdoors.
√ Individuals who are pregnant may also be more vulnerable and become short of breath more easily, staying indoors when AQI is greater than 150 is advised.
Hochul’s team added, “As unhealthy air conditions persist in your area, and in the days that follow, the Department of Health recommends that any New Yorker who experiences symptoms or have symptoms that worsen, including those indicative of complications from heart disease or a heart condition, should consult their personal physician or seek immediate medical help. If experiencing symptoms of respiratory irritation while outside, like coughing, first go inside to find cleaner air.”
An air quality health advisory for particulate matter in the Long Island, New York City metro, and Western New York regions remains in place through at least the end of the day. Particulate matter carried by the wind from wildfires are expected to be on the edge of higher concentration readings in these areas.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Department of Health (DOH) issue air quality health advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern. The latest AQI forecast can be viewed here.
The air flow is expected to continue to send the heaviest smoke south and west of New York, with the southernly and western regions of the state continuing to see smoke conditions. The forecast for tomorrow shows winds turning to a more north-northwesterly direction, with the possibility some smoke could come into the state late Saturday.
In response to the Canadian wildfires, earlier this week, Hochul announced approximately 1 million high-quality N95-style masks are available to New Yorkers to help address air quality impacts. In New York City, the state distributed hundreds of thousands of masks to commuters at major transit hubs throughout the day, in addition to parks and to state elected officials. Nearly 400,000 masks were delivered or picked up from state stockpiles by counties and the State Legislature for distribution, with more distribution scheduled for today.
Hochul recommended that outdoor school activities be suspended while air quality remains a concern. The governor also encouraged New Yorkers to postpone any outdoor activities in impacted regions until conditions improve.
Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, "While conditions are improving overall across the state, we continue to remind people, especially those vulnerable to health impacts from unhealthy air quality, to self-monitor for symptoms and to stay inside if the air quality in their area is deemed unhealthy. Vulnerable individuals such as those with heart conditions or lung disease, as well as the very young, those over 65 years old, and pregnant people, should reduce exposure and minimize exertion when outdoors. If vulnerable individuals must go outdoors during poor air quality conditions, they are encouraged to use a high-quality, well-fitting mask."
In addition, Hochul announced full refunds to those who made reservations to visit a DEC or Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) campgrounds or day-use area and wish to cancel due to air quality concerns. OPRHP operates 68 campgrounds with 8,148 campsites, 967 cabins and cottages, and a lighthouse. DEC manages 52 campgrounds in the Adirondack and Catskill parks with more than 1 million visitor camper nights each season. Visitors who wish to cancel on the day of arrival should call their campground directly. Visitors who wish to cancel prior to their day of arrival should call the ReserveAmerica customer service at 1-800-777-9644. New York state campgrounds remain open, and all reservations will be honored for those who chose to camp this weekend.
Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC's campgrounds and day use areas offer a variety of outdoor activities and experiences that bring back visitors year after year. In light of the current air quality concerns, we want to make sure to keep those customers happy, and will refund any cancellations made for plans this weekend. Our experts will continue our daily monitoring of air quality to help keep the public informed."
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "As New Yorkers continue to be exposed to unhealthy air quality as a result of Canadian wildfires, I am pleased Gov. Hochul is offering the opportunity to refund state camping reservations. For those who want to stay home this weekend, there's still a great summer ahead to enjoy New York's incredible campgrounds."
Yesterday, Hochul announced enhanced measures to protect horses at New York state racetracks ahead of the Belmont Stakes.
Tips for New Yorkers to Stay Safe
√ Limit time outdoors to reduce exposure to smoke
√ Keep windows of homes and buildings closed
√ Avoid strenuous activities
√ Outdoor activity across all groups should be limited or minimized when possible, as those with asthma, allergies or other conditions may be affected.
√ Avoid prolonged exposure
√ Individuals with health vulnerabilities, such as cardiovascular or lung disease, as should those who are pregnant
√ For those who must travel outdoors for significant periods, properly fitted, high-quality masks help reduce exposure.
Hochul has been in contact with Canadian officials and yesterday announced that a team of seven DEC Forest Rangers is deploying to assist with efforts to help contain the wildfires. They will head to Quebec to lead a 15-person team of expert wildland firefighters from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for the next two weeks, and are in addition to a DEC forest ranger currently leading firefighting efforts in Nova Scotia. New York often deploys wildland firefighters to help battle fires as part of interstate and international firefighting compacts.