Amid a rainy March in which millions of Angelenos are observing orders to stay at home, sight lines in the city are getting a bit clearer, and its notorious smog is nowhere to be found.
For nearly three straight weeks, air quality maps tracking the region’s scores on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index have been nothing but green—the color that denotes the cleanest air.
According to the California Air Resources Board, the last time the ozone level in the Los Angeles area reached unhealthy levels was in February. Over the summer, the region saw unhealthy ozone levels every day for more than two straight months.
“We’re seeing very clean air all around California,” says Bill Magavern, policy director with the Coalition for Clean Air. “This time of year we usually have better air, especially with the rain, but the drop-off in traffic has definitely reduced emissions.”
It’s a small silver lining to a pandemic that’s shut down businesses, closed schools, and put strain on LA’s healthcare system.
Magavern points out that this could even aid those afflicted with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The European Public Health Alliance warned last week that residents of cities with poor air quality are “more at risk” from the disease, which can cause severe respiratory issues.
Still, Magavern says, a global pandemic is not a worthy trade for cleaner air.
“This is not the way we want to reduce emissions,” he says.