Visits to South Bay hospitals increase, reflect serious consequence of smoke exposure

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Saturday, November 17, 2018
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The harmful smoke from the Camp Fire is impacting South Bay neighbors, furthest from the flames.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The city of San Jose is more than 200 miles from where the deadly Camp Fire is burning. Still, the harmful smoke is impacting South Bay neighbors, furthest from the flames.

On Friday, a thick layer of smoke from the Camp Fire in Butte County settled over the South Bay region.

"I have been here 26 years, this is the worst air quality I've seen in my career," Dr. Clifford Wang with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center told ABC7 News.

RELATED: Check current Bay Area air quality levels

Dr. Wang estimates at least 20-percent of patients in for treatment on Friday, reported shortness of breath and symptoms likely related to smoke inhalation.

He said some patients requested additional nebulizers, inhalers and steroid dosages. While others required even more specialized care.

"There are some patients we've actually had to keep in the hospital because we're worried that if they left the hospital, they would actually have problems again," Dr. Wang said.

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center advises those with any smoke related concerns to visit the Santa Clara County Public Health Department here.

Across the city, Christmas in the Park preparation at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in Downtown San Jose slowed over smoke concerns.

Stanley Yee, a Christmas in the Park Volunteer with Net App, told ABC7 News his original group of 22 volunteers dropped to 11 on Friday.

Yee said, "We probably lost a couple of our volunteers due to the smoke."

Across the street, Friday meant opening night at the annual Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice rink. Despite the smokey skies, the San Jose Downtown Association opened the rink at 5 p.m.

Coordinators said hundreds usually attend the season opener, but by the 5 p.m. start time only 15 people were waiting in line to ice skate.

"We, of course, want everyone to be safe and healthy," Bree von Faith with San Jose Downtown Association told ABC7 News. "And we are recommending people do what feels best to them."

RELATED: Crowdsourced air monitoring data showing alarming numbers

However, options to escape the smoke aren't always available, or even easily accessible to many people including the homeless.

To combat concern for the homeless, the county has opened more than a dozen Clean Air Centers throughout the smokey South Bay.

"From Gilroy, all the way up to Milpitas and Palo Alto and Mountain View. There are facilities available to offer people some clean air," Patty Eaton with the county's Office of Emergency Services said.

In a release by the agencies involved, Michelle Covert, the County's Housing and Homeless Concerns Coordinator said, "The Office of Supportive Housing is partnering with cities and shelters to make Clean Air Centers available to those who need respite from being outdoors. These Clean Air Centers will help to protect the health and well-being of people who are living outside and therefore continually exposed to very unhealthy air quality."

The release continues: Clean Air Centers will be open during the day in the cities of Gilroy, Los Altos, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose. A list of Clean Air Centers and shelters is available on the Office of Supportive Housing website.

In addition, the Santa Clara County Libraries are available as Clean Air Centers during regular business hours.

You can find information regarding the Clean Air Centers here.