Leave COVID behind, not the clean air

In case you missed it, Healthy Air Alliance Board Member Claudia Oliveira penned a column in the Los Angeles Daily News discussing the urgent need to protect communities disproportionately impacted by poor air quality. In her op-ed titled “Leave COVID Behind, Not the Clean Air,” Oliveira highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic brought to life discrepancies between low-income minority communities and more affluent neighborhoods. As the president of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, Oliveira stresses the need to work collectively to protect communities harmed the most from fossil fuels. Having clean air is a basic necessity and human right, and one that should no longer be put on the backburner.

Below is a preview of Oliveira’s op-ed. Read the full column in the LA Daily News here.

As the world began to face one of the biggest public health emergencies of the century and urban travel slowed down significantly, two things became very clear – the Downtown Los Angeles skyline and the importance of clean air.

In the spring of 2020, I put on my mask and my running shoes and went for my daily solo jog. The empty streets of L.A. once full of locals and tourists were now deserted, much like a ghost town. Not a single car passed me by. That day, and for months to come, the air was crisp and the sky was a solid blue color.

In this new normal, I joined many others who made it a top priority to reassess their personal health and the wellbeing of their immediate communities. What’s interesting about this global shift in focus is that it highlighted discrepancies in the quality of life between low-income minority neighborhoods and other areas with more affluent residents.

This disparity is evident within the boundaries of my own district. I am a resident of Downtown Los Angeles and the President of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. Downtown L.A. is the Mecca of infamous California traffic, an idling location for buses, and the headquarters of many manufacturing companies. But it is also the district that has built the most permanent supportive and low-income housing in Los Angeles County.

Though the virus didn’t discriminate and infected people from all social classes, pre-existing conditions became a determinant that impacted whether a person diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely to need intubation and the assistance of a ventilator.

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