WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Darlene Ouattra has seen the effects of the smoky haze that has blanked and choked the D.C. region.
“I am very concerned about the air quality. That’s why I’ve got my mask on,” Ouattra said.
The hundreds of Canadian wildfires burning many miles from the nation’s capital have caused such poor air quality that District officials have warned people to stay inside — or if you have to be out and about, wear a mask.
Ouattra said she took the warnings seriously.
“Now everybody is running around with strep throat and sinus infections and runny eyes,” she said.
The signs of harmful air were everywhere. The imposter fog was as hard on the eyes as it was on the voice as people said they struggled to breathe and even talk.
Recreation centers, playgrounds and basketball and tennis courts were largely empty, too. Many of those who walked their dogs or rode bikes around the District wore masks — a visible increase not seen since the days of the pandemic.
“The thing is you just don’t know the long-term impact,” said one D.C. resident who declined to give her name. “It’s amazing to me also why there are not more people wearing masks.”
Mayor Muriel Bowser said that people need to take heed of the air quality risks — but the hope is that it won’t be around for long. Reported weather patterns show the bad air being blown out of the region late Friday into the weekend.
“If you don’t have to be outside, then don’t be outside,” she said. “And if you do need to be outside, [remember] to wear a mask and to limit your exposure.”
City officials said that’s what is needed to keep the community safe.
“Certainly the air quality is a concern,” said Christopher Rodriguez, the District’s Homeland and Emergency Management Agency director.
Rodriguez said that “we want to make sure residents have very clear guidance about what it is we would like them to do and what our recommendations are” to keep them safe from the poor air.
“If you are a resident that is over the age of 65, children, those with lung or respiratory ailments should make sure that they stay inside,” he said.
Kristen Redding and her son Alexander were masked up for protection.
“I’m feeling it a lot more in my eyes than my mouth,” Alexander Redding said.
“I just came from upstate New York and it was really bad up there,” Kristen Redding added. “I feel like it followed down back home.”