Wildfire smoke, heat and Covid-19 surge in Whatcom County

Parts of our region are under an excessive heat warning and an air quality alert for the next couple of days.

The National Weather Service said the wildfire smoke is entering Whatcom and Skagit Counties from Southern British Columbia.

People cooling off from the heat at Lake Whatcom noticed the hazy skies.

"The smoke is tougher than the heat in my opinion," said Nate Katschke. "With the heat, we probably want to get out by the water more, but if it’s too smoky we’ll probably just hang out inside try to find a cool room."

"This is the first day I’ve noticed it, because yesterday it was great and this morning when I woke up I noticed it was hazy but also that it smells. I could smell the smoke of course," said Heather Olson.

Health officials in Whatcom County recommend limiting time outdoors these next couple of days.

RELATED: Double whammy - extreme heat and unhealthy air quality

"We have both smoke and heat, and in an ideal world we would ask everyone to stay home not go outside have fans and close your windows," said Erika Lautenbach, Director of the Whatcom County Health Department. "We know that most people don’t have air-conditioning, and that’s not really practical [to tell people to stay indoors] in this world that we’re living in, especially with the heat."

The smoke and heat also come during a covid surge in Whatcom County. There has been a 600 percent increase in cases in the last four weeks according to Lautenbach.

"We now have 25 people at PeaceHealth Hospital, which is our only hospital in the county," said Lautenbach. "Our all-time high is 31 [patients], so 25 is very high for us."

Lautenbach said that the symptoms of Covid-19 and smoke inhalation can be similar which can include a sore throat, cough and difficulty breathing.

If you develop any symptoms in the coming days, health officials recommend getting tested for Covid-19.

People with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, are more vulnerable during times of unhealthy air quality. Lautenbach recommends finding an indoor public space that has air-conditioning and good air quality.


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