COVID-19, Wildfires, and Indoor Air Quality
Communities affected by wildfire smoke may choose to set up or identify cleaner air spaces and cleaner air shelters where people can seek relief from wildfire smoke. Public health guidance for sheltering from wildfires in cleaner air spaces or cleaner air shelters should be to be adapted to accommodate safety measures related to COVID-19.
CDC offers interim guidance for use by federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to reduce the risk of introducing and transmitting SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19, in these cleaner air spaces or shelters. Communities should note that the requirements of state, local and tribal agencies supersede these recommendations.
More information about how to set up cleaner air spaces is available in Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials in Appendix B.
In addition, ASHRAE (formerly the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) offers a Planning Framework for Protecting Commercial Building Occupants from Smoke During Wildfire Events (PDF) that recommends HVAC and building measures to minimize occupant exposures and health impacts from smoke during wildfire and prescribed burn smoke events, including some considerations for reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Create a Clean Room to Protect Indoor Air Quality During a Wildfire
In some cases, the combination of COVID-19 epidemic and wildfires may require modifying emergency plans. If there is an active fire in your area, local authorities may advise you to stay indoors or create a clean room rather than evacuate. Setting up a clean room at home can help reduce your exposure to dangerous or unhealthy wildfire smoke while indoors. Everyone can benefit from spending time in a clean room during a wildfire, but it may be most helpful for sensitive individuals like the very young, very old, and people with heart or lung problems. To create a clean room (e.g. a bedroom with attached bathroom), keep doors and windows closed, run your air conditioner or fans to stay cool, filter the air with a portable air cleaner, and avoid activities that produce particles (e.g. smoking, burning candles or incense, cooking). Spend as much time as possible in the clean room.