By Jennifer Gibbs, GTC Director of Marketing & Communications
The entire world is on lockdown because of the coronavirus and while I grieve for the loss of friends and with families who have lost loved ones, this lockdown has in one way been a blessing. I am sure you are wondering how, with all the suffering of so many, could this be a blessing? I will explain.
I am an asthmatic with COPD. I have been living with these conditions ever since I was hospitalized with pneumonia three and a half years ago. It is most annoying and oftentimes embarrassing to be in a public setting and begin to cough uncontrollably. Those who suffer with asthma or COPD are all too familiar with what I am talking about. But for those who do not, this is my story.
One of the symptoms of asthma is persistent nagging cough. There are different "triggers" that will cause symptoms to flare up. I mentioned pneumonia, there is also smoking, pollen, and one big "trigger" is AIR POLLUTION.
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area where commute times average anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, it is understandable that the air quality is impacted. Compound that with living in a port city, where the exhaust from shipping vessels with engines that run on heavy fuel oil create a high polluting impact. In addition, there are the destructive wildfire seasons we often endure, which can fill the air with such thick heavy smoke, sheltering inside is all one can do.
So why has the coronavirus been a blessing for those of us who suffer with asthma and COPD? This pandemic has created an unintended consequence for the environment: cleaner air! The Bay Area Air Quality Management District reports that with fewer cars on the roads and highways and industries scaling back as part of restrictions related to the spread of the coronavirus, the Bay Area has seen exceptionally good levels of air quality across the entire region [San Francisco Chronicle]. This pattern has already played out in China, Italy, and other parts of the world where efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus have significantly reduced motor-vehicle traffic and industrial activity.
Phil Martien, with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco notes in a Mercury News piece that within a few weeks of the stay at home order, traffic counts at Bay Area bridges were dramatically reduced - approximately 70% than normal. Martien further explains that because automotive vehicles are responsible for about 30% of the fine particulate matter, or soot, in Bay Area air, that means those tiny particles, which lodge deep in the lungs and can cause heart and lung problems, have probably declined by at least 20%.
In the same way, nitrogen oxides, harmful chemicals that are emitted from burning fuels and contribute to smog, were down roughly 40% using similar estimates. And carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, was off roughly 20% due to the decline in Bay Area driving. Outdoor recreation has also been restricted which has lessened the potential for accidental campfires.
Being able to take a walk and see blue skies and breathe fresh clean air is truly a blessing for an asthmatic. Hopefully, society will learn a lesson from this coronavirus experience. God has sent us a message. We need to wake up and see what we are doing to this world we live in. We MUST take better care of our God-given environment and stop polluting the air we breathe, the waters we must drink and the land we live on and grow our food. "You shall not pollute the land in which you live … you shall not defile the land in which you live in which I live also" Numbers 35:33-34