It’s fair to say that most of us will be glad to see the back of 2020. The arrival of Covid-19 brought about change on a scale that we could not have imagined 12 months ago. But as vaccines from all over the world are starting to show promise, there is some hope that 2021 will be a better year.
So, with the new year just around the corner, we take a look back at some of the big news that occurred in 2020.
The Covid story
On January 11th 2020, a 61 year old man from Wuhan in China, died from a new pneumonia like virus, similar to the 2003 SARS virus. On Jan 30, as cases began to spread to other parts of the world, the WHO confirmed the situation was a global emergency. Just over a month later on March 11, as many more thousands lost their lives, the WHO declared a pandemic. By April, most of Europe was in lockdown and deaths in the US had surpassed those in China. By May 26th 100,000 Americans had died and by the end of September, the global death toll reached 1,000,000 people.
Earlier in the year, the WHO confirmed the main method of transmission for Covid-19 is via airborne droplets. Who and what we share the air with has never been more important.
Pollution directly liked to the spread of Covid-19
Worldwide, scientists began to collect data on the virus, to understand why we react to it in different ways. Some people become severely ill, some show no symptoms at all, some make a full recovery, and some don’t survive. Scientists from the US, China and Italy all came to the same conclusion, the number of deaths and the severity of illness is linked to our environment, specifically exposure to air pollution. People living in heavily polluted areas fair much worse than those living in cleaner spaces.
In another paper, published in August this year, researchers from Taiwan found evidence to show that Particulate Matter (PM) from vehicles and industry plays a direct role in the spread of Covid-19. Their findings show that the virus can be absorbed by pollution particles, then linger in the air “for hours or days” before being inhaled deep into the lungs, where it can start replicating. This is not the first time a virus has hitched a ride in this way. Bird flu and seasonal flu have both been detected in pollution particles.
Worst wildfire season on record
The arrival of Covid-19, together with the effects of global warming, left many parts of the country extremely vulnerable this wildfire season. In California alone, 4 million acres of land has been burnt, that’s more than double the previous year. Over 10,000 structures have been destroyed and 31 people have sadly lost their lives.
In Oregon more than 1 million acres burned, at a cost of $354 million dollars. Tragically 4,009 families lost their homes, 40 times the number for the previous 4 years combined.
This year’s wildfire season has been, without doubt, the worst in modern history.
Good news in 2020
Although 2020 has been extremely challenging, there has been some good news to come out of it too. Researchers from Brown University, found that by improving air quality in the classroom, they could increase test scores in the same way as cutting class sizes by 30%. This confirmed what we have known here at Austin Air for some time. Removing pollutants and allergens from the classroom is a simple and cost-effective way to improve a child’s performance. This study took place over just 4 months, imagine the possibilities if children have access to clean air for the entire school year.
More good news…
During lockdown, doctors in neonatal units all over the world started to notice something quite unusual. The number of babies born prematurely started to drop dramatically. In Ireland, preterm births dropped by 75%. In Denmark, the number of babies born early during lockdown dropped by a staggering 90%, in comparison to previous years. As these doctors shared their findings, they realized they weren’t the only ones, Canadian and Dutch doctors also noticed a sharp drop in the number of babies born early.
There are conflicting opinions on why this occurred. On the one hand, pregnant women were often working from home, cutting out the daily commute gave them more time to rest and relax. But were we really less stressed? Living through a pandemic meant financial uncertainty for many, we all worried about our health and our future.
One thing we do know is that pollution levels dropped dramatically during lockdown. Clear skies and empty roads gave us a chance to breathe clean air, free from pollutants. Could this be the missing link?
Clean air is critical
2020 has been a year like no other. Indoor air quality has never been more critical. We’re all spending more time at home and we’re all concerned about who’s sharing our air. For the removal of viruses and bacteria, allergens and pollutants. Make your home a safe space with Austin Air.