Smoke from fires in nearby counties hovers over the Mission. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

San Francisco’s air quality reached 151 on Wednesday, the worst level of air pollution the city has experienced since the Camp Fire in November, 2018.

The current level of pollution means “everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects, and members of more sensitive groups may experience more serious effects,” San Francisco’s Director of Health, Grant Colfax, said at a press conference Wednesday. 

At that press conference, Mayor London Breed advised residents to stay home and minimize exposure to outdoor air, and emergency services explained what steps would be taken to protect the unhoused. 

If the air quality level reaches purple, meaning that prolonged air exposure can be seriously harmful for even the healthiest of individuals, the city may open cleaner air locations for members of the community unable to stay inside, said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director for the Department of Emergency Management.

“These locations will be selected based on a neighborhood approach that focuses on the areas of highest needs,” Director Carroll said. 

Director Carroll added that these sites would implement social distancing guidelines and health screenings to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission. She said that nearby jurisdictions with higher temperatures have been operating cooling centers recently. 

“We do have a plan and feel that we can do it safely, should we need to,” Director Carroll said. 

At several points during the press conference, city officials noted the confluence of challenges the city is currently facing. 

In the past seven days, we have dealt with a heatwave, rolling power outages, lightning and thunderstorms, rain and now poor air quality,” Director Carroll said. 

On Tuesday, the officials issued a Spare the Air Alert, now extended through Sunday, which bans residents from burning any solid fuel, indoors or outdoors. 

Colfax said that the city is not currently planning to close any covid-19 testing sites.

“We will continue to assess the air quality as things forward. … But at this point, testing centers will remain open and we will provide any updated information if that changes,” Colfax said. 

Those seeking updates can check, or text your zip code to 888-777 for alerts from the department of emergency management, according to Director Carroll. 

Mayor Breed dispatched San Francisco Fire Department on Sunday to support Salinas combat the River Fire, sparked by lightning early Sunday morning. 

“We will send support and personnel wherever we can in the weeks ahead,” Mayor Breed said.

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Juan Carlos Lara covers business and development in the Mission. Juan Carlos, a San Francisco State alum, is as much a photographer as he is a writer and previously worked as the campus news editor at Golden Gate Xpress, SF State’s student paper.

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