New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed the alarming levels of wildfire smoke engulfing the city and its metropolitan area. In a press conference on Wednesday, he urged residents to wear masks while outdoors and prioritize staying indoors with closed windows. Adams emphasized that the scale of this impact was unprecedented for the city, with high levels of smoke reaching from Yankee Stadium to the skyline.
Advising residents to remain indoors as much as possible and utilize air conditioning, Adams cautioned against engaging in outdoor activities, especially for children. The Air Quality Index (AQI) reached an unprecedented 218 on Tuesday, and Adams confirmed an AQI of 174 in The Bronx on Wednesday morning. The dangerous air quality is expected to persist through Thursday.
Zach Iscol, Commissioner of NYC Emergency Management, explained that an AQI over 100 is typical for this time of year due to factors like pollen. However, the concern heightened when it surpassed 150, prompting immediate action. City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan highlighted the elevated risk for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
Dr. Vasan recommended avoiding unnecessary outdoor activities and using high-quality masks such as N95, KN95, or KF94 for individuals who must go outside. Although there has been no significant increase in emergency room visits related to the current conditions, Dr. Michael Katz, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, expressed greater concern for Wednesday since people have returned to the streets and work.
Earlier in the day, New York City public schools suspended outdoor activities, and potential closures for Thursday were communicated to parents by the Department of Education Chancellor David Banks.
Mayor Adams’ press conference coincided with New York City having the second-worst air quality in the world, as the smog from fires near Quebec, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia settled over the region. Governor Kathy Hochul issued a statewide Air Quality Health Advisory on Tuesday, and both Adams and Vasan acknowledged that severe air quality events may become more frequent in the city due to climate change.
Adams commended his team for their swift response to this unprecedented situation, stressing the need to adapt and plan for such incidents in the future. He suggested encouraging the use of public transportation and advocating for the availability of N95 masks as poor air quality becomes increasingly common.