On Wednesday, June 28, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the Air Quality Index (AQI) had reached unhealthy levels as the smog continued to worsen.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Sanitation, air quality in the western and central parts of the state and eastern Lake Ontario has reached levels that are unhealthy for all New Yorkers.

Currently, the AQI for the rest of the state, including New York City and Long Island, remains at 101, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Officials warned that as the air continued to circulate through Thursday, June 29, the smog could soon make conditions unhealthy in the east as well.

Officials expect the air quality index to reach “very unhealthy” or even “hazardous” this week.

In preparation, Hochul announced that for the first time emergency cell phone alerts will be sent, warning New Yorkers of the hazardous air.

Transmitted via a wireless emergency alert system, an alert is triggered if the air quality index exceeds 200 (the “very unhealthy” threshold) for more than an hour.

The New York State Department of Health has recommended necessary precautions, including:

  • When the air quality index (AQI) is greater than 100, susceptible New Yorkers should avoid outdoor exercise and monitor for symptoms while outside.
  • All New Yorkers should avoid outdoor exercise when the AQI is greater than 150. Vulnerable groups should avoid going out completely, including pregnant women.
  • When the AQI is greater than 200, everyone should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor activities, and vulnerable groups should avoid all outdoor activities again.
  • When the AQI is greater than 300, all New Yorkers should avoid outdoor physical activity.

Vulnerable groups include people with cardiovascular disease, lung disease, children under 18, adults over 65, and pregnant women.

When the air quality is unhealthy, it is strongly recommended that people who are active outdoors wear KN95 and N95 masks.

The governor said hundreds of thousands of these masks will be made available to the public free of charge in counties.

To view the air forecast for your area, click here.

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