County of Marin - News Releases - Wildfire Smoke

For Immediate Release
August 20, 2020

Wildfire Smoke Prompts Local Health Advisory

The overlap of COVID-19 and bad air quality complicate public health response

San Rafael, CA – Smoke from Northern California wildfires is deteriorating air quality, prompting Marin Public Health to issue a public health advisory warning residents who may be affected by or susceptible to COVID-19 to take extra precautions in limiting smoke exposure.

A view of smoky skies over the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael during wildfires.Wildfire smoke over the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, August 19, 2020.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a Spare the Air Alert through Sunday, August 23, and is reminding those affected to take appropriate health precautions.

In addition to the Woodward Fire in coastal West Marin, fires most affecting Marin County residents include those in Sonoma, Mendocino, Solano, Yolo, and Contra Costa counties.

“The overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic with wildfire season complicates our public health response,” said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “People either at a higher risk of COVID-19 exposures or already affected by the disease may be even more vulnerable if exposed to wildfire smoke.”

Particularly at risk are:

  • Those who are immunocompromised or taking drugs that suppress the immune system; and
  • Those who are infected or recovering from COVID-19. Because of compromised heart and lung function due to COVID-19, they may be at increased risk of health effects from exposure to wildfire smoke.

The most common effects of wildfire smoke are eye and throat irritation, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Residents in communities that are threatened by wildfire should factor in COVID-19 protective actions when reviewing safety and evacuation plans.

Residents in affected areas who need to leave home should practice physical distancing, cover coughs, clean hands frequently, and wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Evacuation shelters are being modified to accommodate for physical distancing requirements.

COVID-19 continues to circulate in Marin, and the best protection from the virus and poor air quality is to stay indoors. Even when sufficiently distancing from others, face coverings should be worn outside for protection against both COVID-19 and the smoke.

Learn more from BAAQMD,, and the Centers for Disease Control.


Dr. Matthew Willis
Public Health Officer
Health and Human Services

3240 Kerner Blvd.
San Rafael, CA 94901
(415) 473-4163
Email: Dr. Matthew Willis
Marin HHS website