Air quality improves in New York City, Tri-State after smoke from Canada wildfires

New York City officials gave the green light to organizers on Friday to go forward with the many outdoor events planned this weekend as smoke from the Canadian wildfires subsides and air quality improves.

The Air Quality Alert that was in place for several days was canceled in New York City and other parts of the state like Rockland and Westchester counties and Long Island.

With the air quality gradually improving, recommendations for people to stay indoors and outdoor events to be canceled were lifted just in time for a host of weekend events, including Sunday’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade. “I’m looking forward, if the weather permits, to marching in the parade,” Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul established air quality guidelines for horse racing statewide and said the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, would be “a last minute decision.” Hochul said the race would be canceled if the air quality index exceeded 200 in Elmont Saturday night. If the AQI is between 151 and 200, only horses that pass a respiratory examination by a veterinarian would be able to race. The AQI was under 100 at the venue Friday morning.

Belmont had already reopened for racing and horse training Friday morning “following significant improvement in air quality conditions throughout New York State.”

The Governor’s Ball Music Festival in Flushing Meadows, Corona Park went on as scheduled at around noon Friday, and is expected to continue through late Sunday night.

The heated Yankees-Red Sox rivalry resumes Friday night in the Bronx.

The Public Theater canceled the first two performances of its “Shakespeare in the Park” production of “Hamlet” Thursday and Friday, but the production is scheduled to begin Saturday.

A majority of New York City public schools students were already off Friday for a prescheduled clerical day, but many high school students who were supposed to attend classes in person were told to stay at home for remote learning. Teachers and most other school staff were not required to report to work in person Friday.

Meanwhile, the region’s other school districts that cancelled classes yesterday were back in school.

Newark, New Jersey schools resumed classes, while recess and other outdoor activities were held inside as a precaution. Elizabeth schools, also canceled Thursday, operated on a half-day schedule Friday, and also “recommending that students wear face coverings…as an added measure of precaution.”

Yonkers schools were also back in session, as were Long Beach and Freeport schools on Long Island, although they still limited outdoor events.

Alternate side parking rules were suspended Friday to help limit outdoor activities. Meter rules are still in effect.

Emergency room visits for asthma nearly doubled from Tuesday to Wednesday, which saw more than 300 such cases, according to city data. Northwell Health also saw an increase in cases of respiratory illness, with more than double the average number of asthma treatments at its Lenox Health Greenwich Village Hospital.

However, no cases were believed serious and FDNY did not report a significant increase in either its EMS load or any strain from responding to an increased number of calls reporting smoke.

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