Cost of COVID: air quality reports break records in central Georgia

When it comes to the pandemic, there have been some positives.

As we continue our series looking at the Cost of COVID, Amyre Makupson with Mercer’s Center for Collaborative Journalism has more on why the slower pace of life has been good news for the great outdoors.

“It’s feeling wonderful,” said Cleandria Wrice.

She has her hands full with her nieces and nephews. Social distancing guidelines keep the bunch at home most days doing things like reading books.

But during some of November’s nicer days, she’s taken the kids outside.

“To have a fun day and it’s beautiful out here,” said Wrice.

She’s not wrong. Thanks to the pandemic, the air has felt a little fresher.

“We really began to notice some impacts, some improvement in air quality,” said Dr. Mill Murphey, a state climatologist with the EPD.

He says air quality improved over the summer months and into the fall.

“During this summer, when we had less vehicles on the road, we had ozone levels lower. We had, you know, particle pollution levels lower,” said Murphey.

Less is in fact more. The American Lung Association said in its annual ‘State of the Air’ report that Georgia’s air pollutants were at some of their lowest recorded levels in April.

Out of the state’s 588 cities, Macon and Warner Robins tied at 41 for the cleanest air; the best number for both cities to date.

With more people working and learning from home, Murphey says the improved air quality is also thanks in part to less carbon emissions from cars and airplanes.

“We’re heading in the right direction. If you start easing back on vehicular emission for ozone… definitely. As far as particle pollution, we’ve helped on that [with] maybe less combustion, less power plant emissions,” said Murphey.

In a time that’s been challenging for everyone, cleaner air and clearer skies can lead to brighter spirits.

If you’re getting burned out wearing your mask, Dr. Murphey says that’s even more reason to get out doors. Open air and wind help keep particles in the air dispersed and moving, meaning you can take a deep breath.