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Smoky skies are hard on health and businesses

Angel M Russell
Downtown Paso Robles fills with smoke from nearby fires

Smoky skies continue to blanket the Central Coast, creating unhealthy air quality in San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Barbara counties that is affecting health and business.

While some businesses are closing their doors because of the smoke, others are trying their best to adjust. “Visibility is low, it stings the eyes," said Andrew Miller, manager at Pappy McGregors in Paso Robles. "A little bit of coughing, and you wonder if people are sick or if it’s just the smoke in the air."

Miller says the smoke plus the heat, and the shifting guidelines with the pandemic are all causing businesses to constantly make adjustments. “2020 has just been a year of constant adaptation," Miller said, "just always on the fly, and every week it’s something new."

Some businesses have posted "closed" signs, but others, like Pappy McGregor's, are staying open. Miller says closing would be tough, especially since this year has already been a financial roller coaster for local businesses.

"In spite of everything going on we are still open. Support local businesses," Miller said, "it’s tough times out there. We want to support our neighbors and keep on chugging along.”

While some streets throughout the Central Coast seem bare, with fewer people walking around and fewer businesses open, other areas are still bustling with people outside walking their dogs, exercising, and going about their day.

But Megan Field with the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District warns people to take the smoky conditions seriously. “Some of the levels that we are seeing up in the North County and San Luis Obispo in particular, those kinds of increased levels really can impact even a healthy individual," Field said.

Field recommends that everyone limit their exposure outside, even in areas that seem less smoky. She says if you do go outside to enjoy restaurants, try to do take-out, and if you are walking, keep the walks short.

And she says be mindful in listening to your body if you feel any symptoms such as coughing or trouble breathing. “You could start to feel light-headed, you could experience wheezing, even if you don’t have asthma," Field said, "so it’s not great for your lungs and it can just exacerbate any preexisting conditions that are already there.”

With some of the wildfires nearby continuing to grow, the the Central Coast may be dealing with smoky skies for some time to come.