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When people get around to writing the Best of 2020 stories, they’re not going to have much to say.

A year that with each passing day seemingly can’t get worse, somehow finds a way to get worse.

Our resiliency is being tested.

The smoke from fires throughout the region looks as if it will continue to degrade our air quality through at least the start of the week. Forecasters had expected onshore weather event to start this week that did not come about.

Not to be too doom and gloom, but at this point it is probably best to not get hopes up too high for any particular day that the air will clear. It will happen and, on the plus side, fire crews are doing a good job on the fires throughout the region.

We’ve been through stretches of poor air quality before, often at this time of year connected to wildland fires. But this year is different given that getting outside for a breath of fresh air had become to the top leisure activity for people during the COVID-19 era.

While the poor air quality is an annoyance and irritant for all of us, for people with respiratory issues it is a critical health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.7% of adults and 8.4% of children, in the U.S. have asthma, and, according to the National Heath, Lung and Blood Institute 16 million Americans have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Many of know people with these conditions and it would be a good time to reach out to them to see if they need anything, with the goal of limiting their trips outside.

Obviously, the expert advice is to stay inside. The problem is not everyone has a home with an efficient HVAC system. Ellensburg has a very mixed housing stock with many older homes that may not be equipped to filter and recirculate fresh air. In other words, the air quality inside the home may be only slightly better than the air quality outside the home.

Absent a complete retrofit of your home’s HVAC system, there is the box-fan filter fix.

Instruction from the state Department of Health website for a box-fan filter are as follows:

n Select a standard box fan and a filter with a MERV 13 rating of the same dimensions.

n There are different designs to consider, such as the filter is attached by bungee cord, the filter is screwed on brackets, and two filters are attached to create a triangle shape

n Place the constructed DIY box fan filter in a room, ideally a small room where you spend time, with the windows and doors closed. Keep it away from a window or wall so that the front or back are not blocked.

n Do not run unattended and monitor for overheating to reduce the risk of fire.

n Change the filter when dirty.

As horrible as these days may seem, just imagine what it will be like the first day you can step outside and fill your lungs with fresh air, whatever day that may be.


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