Governor Kathy Hochul today announced approximately one million high-quality N95-style masks will be made available to New Yorkers as smoke and haze as a result of ongoing Canadian wildfires continue to impact air quality throughout the state. The State Departments of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health continue to issue air quality warnings. According to recent forecasts and advisories, air quality index is expected to be unhealthy for most of the state, outside of the North Country, through today.
“Every part of New York State has experienced unhealthy air quality in the last 24 hours as a result of Canadian wildfires, and our number one priority right now is keeping New Yorkers safe,” Governor Hochul said. “Prolonged exposure to this harmful air will cause negative health impacts, which is why we’re making high-quality masks available at high-traffic areas across New York. I am encouraging everyone in impacted regions across the state to stay indoors and reduce your exposure to this harmful smoke until air quality improves.”
Masks will be made available at the following locations:
- Grand Central Terminal
- Penn Station
- Fulton Center
- Jamaica Station
- Main Concourse of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, South Wing
- Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park, Harlem
- Roberto Clemente State Park, Bronx
Earlier today, Governor Hochul recommended that outdoor school activities be suspended while air quality remains a concern. The Governor also encouraged New Yorkers to postpone any outdoor activities in impacted regions until conditions improve. DEC and DOH experts continue to monitor air quality, watching smoke and weather patterns closely.
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “New Yorkers should do what they can to stay safe over the coming days as reduced air quality continues to pose harmful health impacts. We are making high-quality masks available throughout the state and recommend everyone limit their outdoor activities to reduce exposure.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York experts are continuously monitoring air quality as the state is impacted by smoke from wildfires in Canada and with our State partners DEC is committed to keeping the public informed. I applaud Governor Hochul for continuing to provide resources to help address potential exposure to harmful air quality and encourage New Yorkers to take precautions during this ongoing dry weather to prevent any additional fire danger here at home.”
Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said, “With smoke from the Canadian wildfires blanketing our state, we are particularly concerned about the New Yorkers who are most vulnerable to negative health impacts from unhealthy air quality. These include everyone with heart conditions or lung disease, as well as the very young, those over 65 years old, and pregnant people. The best way for vulnerable individuals to protect themselves is to stay inside, reduce exposure and minimize exertion when outdoors. If you must go outdoors, please use a high quality, well-fitting mask while these unhealthy conditions persist. And, for the areas where the air quality is designated as Hazardous, then that recommendation applies to everyone.”
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “I thank Governor Hochul for her leadership. Many New Yorkers may elect to head to air-conditioned offices during this air quality episode, and they can be confident that MTA trains and buses will continue to operate equipped with air filtration.”
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton said,”The health and safety of our customers is paramount to everyone at the Port Authority, particularly as our entire region continues to face deteriorating air quality. In response to the request from Governor Hochul, we will distribute as many masks as we can to our customers at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. We thank Governor Hochul and her team for their commitment to public safety.”
Exposure to current air quality conditions can pose negative health impacts, including:
- Irritation to Eyes, Nose or Throat
- Runny Nose
- Shortness of Breath
These conditions are especially dangerous for vulnerable New Yorkers with medical conditions such as asthma and/or heart disease.
DEC and DOH issue Air Quality Health Advisories when DEC meteorologists predict levels of pollution, either ozone or fine particulate matter are expected to exceed an Air Quality Index (AQI) value of 100. Today’s advisory is due to fine particulate matter carried by the wind from the wildfires. The AQI was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale, with a higher AQI value indicating a greater health concern.
The latest AQI Forecast can be viewed here.
Tips for New Yorkers to Stay Safe
- Limit time outdoors to reduce exposure to smoke
- Keep windows of homes and buildings closed
- Avoid strenuous activities
- Outdoor activity across all groups should be limited or minimized when possible, as those with asthma, allergies or other conditions may be affected.
- Avoid prolonged exposure
- Individuals with health vulnerabilities, such as cardiovascular or lung disease, as should those who are pregnant
- For those who must travel outdoors for significant periods, properly fitted, high-quality masks help reduce exposure.
An updated fire danger map is available on the DEC website. While the statewide burn ban is no longer in effect, brush burning should only be done when absolutely necessary. Burning garbage or leaves is prohibited year-round in New York State.