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DENVER (KDVR) — With the pandemic causing chronic respiratory illness for more of the population, the state health department is reminding some Coloradans that poor air quality may impact them differently now.

Front Range ozone concentrations on Thursday were once again moderate to unhealthy for some with respiratory illnesses.

People with breathing issues may be used to being careful when the air quality is poor. But with more than 500,000 people contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic, health leaders said those people need to be on alert as well.

ICU physician and pulmonologist Dr. Ahmad Rashid of Swedish Medical Center said COVID survivors should pay attention to the air quality this summer.

People who have had problems breathing with COVID “have essentially acquired a chronic lung disease,” Rashid said.

“Not everybody who is going to get COVID is going to get that,” Rashid said. “There are people whose lungs are going to be affected, and they are the ones who are sort of the long-haulers. They are coughing, they are getting more short of breath, and they are not back to their baseline exercise. They are more susceptible to it, and they should be extra careful.”

Studies link COVID, poor air quality

Studies have linked poor air quality to COVID severity.

“There have been a number of good studies that show that people that live in more polluted areas in the world — like Southeast Asia, where they have like really bad air — they had a higher mortality from COVID because their lungs were not healthy to begin with. There have been some studies in the U.S. that show the same thing,” Rashid said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment did one of those studies back in February.

Using Census data from 2010, they found places in Colorado with increased long-term exposure to fine particle pollution generally experienced more COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Doctors said you may already have a solution to keep yourself safe if you struggled with COVID, advising you to wear the masks you’ve been wearing for protection from COVID for the poor air as well.

That mask suggestion does not apply to everyone, but it may help if you are still having trouble.

How to check air quality

That information is usually on your phone’s weather app.

You can also check sites like: