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Air Quality Drops to “Purple” Thursday

This morning, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) issued a “Code Purple” air quality alert for Washington, DC for Thursday, June 8.

Code purple means the air is very unhealthy, not just those with respiratory illnesses, but for everyone. Residents and visitors are urged to follow precautions, including remaining indoors if possible and wearing K95 or N95 masks.

A view of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge from Navy Yard on a regular day, vs June 8.

More than 9.3 million acres are burining in the Canadian province of Quebec and near the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario. The smoke from these significant wildfires has traveled to cause unhealthy air quality in the DC area and the northeast United States. Officials say this problem is likely to continue or worsen through Friday. DC Health and DOEE recommend that residents pay attention to local air quality reports and the US Air Quality Index at airnow.gov.

When the Air Quality Index is above 200, making it a code purple or maroon:

it is recommended you stay indoors as much as possible. Those who must work outside should reduce work outside if possible. Those who must be outdoors should wear a mask, such as a N95 or KN95 equivalent.

When the Air Quality Index is above 150, or a code red), it is recommended you:

  1. Avoid exercising and other strenuous activities outdoors.
  2. Older adults (over age 65), children, pregnant women and those who have heart disease, asthma, or other chronic lung disease should stay indoors as much as possible. Keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
  3. Use an air filter. Use a freestanding indoor air filter with particle removal. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on filter replacement and where to place the device.
  4. If you are vulnerable because of age or medical conditions and must be outdoors, consider wearing a tight-fitting N95 or KN95 mask.  Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores or ordinary cloth masks will not protect your lungs from smoke. However, a tightly-fitting “N95” mask or “KN95 mask” will offer some protection. See the Respirator Fact Sheet provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  5. If you have asthma, chronic lung disease, or heart disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines. Call your doctor if you have difficulty breathing or worsening symptoms.

When the Air Quality Index is between 100 and 150 in your area, or code orange, follow these tips:

  1. Older adults (over age 65), children, pregnant women and those who have heart disease, asthma or other chronic lung disease, should avoid exercising outdoors.
  2. If you have asthma, chronic lung disease, or heart disease, follow your doctor’s advice about medicines. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

Other tips that residents should follow while the air quality remains unhealthy:

  • Avoid long or intense outdoor activities
  • Consider rescheduling or moving activities indoors
  • Consider wearing a high-quality mask (N95 or K95) outdoors
  • Keep doors and windows closed

Additional recommendations from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency can be found HERE.

Shelter Hotline and Emergency Shelter

Keep an eye out for those who live out of doors. Individuals should call the Shelter Hotline (202) 399-7093 to request transportation to shelter for unsheltered residents. Low-barrier shelters remain open 24 hours and are ready to receive residents who need relief from poor outdoor air quality. District and partner agency outreach teams are informing unsheltered residents to seek relief from poor outdoor air quality in shelters and service centers.

  • Adams Place Day Center (2210 Adams Place NE), 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Downtown Day Services Center (1313 New York Avenue NW), normal hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but the center will remain open until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 8
  • 801 East Day Center Day Center (2722 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE), 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Modifications to District Services

The Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has closed all DPR fields, playgrounds, and athletic courts. The weekly produce giveaway at Powell Communal Farm (3149 16th Street NW) is canceled. All outdoor activities have been canceled, including outdoor permits.  

The Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL) has canceled all outdoor activities at senior wellness centers and community dining sites across the District. All sites remain open. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) closed its Inspection Station, located at 1001 Half Street SW at 11:00 a.m. Customers who planned to visit the inspection station today because their inspection stickers are expiring will be given a five-calendar day extension to renew. DC DMV’s Service Centers will remain open during normal business hours. Many of DC DMV services can be completed online or via the mobile app, allowing customers to “skip-the-trip.” 

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has suspended paving and road operations for its internal crews. Contractors and utilities working on the field are following their own safety protocols and will suspend work at their own discretion. DDOT has team members who are on call to respond to any issues in the field that warrant the agency’s attention. Crossing guards will still be supporting schools, but both the guards and traffic control officers (TCOs) will be working with limited hours and will be required to wear masks.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) has noted that effective 10:00 a.m. today, household trash and recycling collection will “slide” to the next day for the remainder of the week through Saturday; for example, trash scheduled for collection today will be collected Friday, June 9.   

The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) may still conduct scheduled outside inspections at the discretion of the inspectors; however, inspectors will not be required to perform inspections today. Additionally, unless considered an emergency, DOEE field activities will be cancelled for today. 

DC Public Schools (DCPS) has canceled outdoor activities. This includes recess, outdoor Physical Education classes, athletic practices and competitions, and any school-specific events or field trips intended for the outdoors. 

Call 311 if you have any questions or concerns about the air quality alert in the District. Only call 911 in the case of an emergency or immediate safety risks.

Continue to monitor airnow.gov for the latest information on air quality.

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