State officials have started distributing masks as the latest public health response to the wildfire smoke that has engulfed New York City this week.
Governor Kathy Hochul held a press conference late Wednesday to announce the state’s efforts to provide relief and aid at a time when air quality levels remain hazardous in New York City. She said that the state would be distributing masks to help protect New Yorkers from the smoke.
“One thing we can do is make sure that people do keep masks in their homes,” Hochul said at the press conference.
New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Zachary Isco pointed to the air quality index hitting 484 in New York City during Wednesday afternoon — nearly topping the EPA’s Air Quality Index, which measures and tracks air quality and pollution data across the country.
“It tops out at 500,” Isco said. “What does that mean? Anything above 300 is considered hazardous.”
The hazardous levels of air pollution placed New York City as the worst of any city in the world on Wednesday, as ranked by IQAir, a company that develops air quality monitoring and operates a real-time air quality information platform.
While city services will continue to be available on Thursday, the city has cancelled all outdoor events and has recommended that non-profits and businesses follow the city’s lead and not conduct outdoor activities.
Public schools in New York City are already closed to students today for staff development. School administrators and educators have the option to attend today’s activities remotely, said Schools Chancellor David Banks at a press conference yesterday evening. Elementary and middle schoolers are off on Friday for Clerical Day.