The dust cloud that covers Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Florida exacerbates the existing health risks brought about by COVID-19. Dubbed a Gorilla Dust Cloud, it measures 3,500 miles long. The massive cloud traveled 5,000 miles from its origin in the Sahara Desert. Reportedly, this is the most significant dust storm from North Africa to hit the United States in 50 years. It crossed the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Barbados and Jamaica earlier this week. Weather services say the brown haze will affect air quality over Southeast U.S. states through this weekend and into next week.
Gorilla Dust Cloud
This is the season for strong Saharan desert winds. They typically whip up masses of sand before carrying it across the Atlantic. According to Reuters, meteorologists explained that dry air layers, filled with fine particles of dust are common occurrences in summer. Scientists call the dust cloud the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) in their studies of its effect on hurricane development.
However, this year, multiple less severe storms combined to form the much denser Gorilla Dust Cloud. Florida residents were the first to be affected in the U.S. Similarly, low visibility, hazy skies and poor air quality will move onto Texas, then North Carolina and Arkansas through next week. In addition, a CNN meteorologist warned that the dust cloud could even move into Ohio and southern Illinois.
Gorilla Dust Cloud and COVID-19
COVID-19 cases are peeking across the nation. However, the states reporting the highest numbers of new cases are those exposed to the hazardous dust. After the recent downward trend in infections, hospitalizations in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona spiked last week. Furthermore, after easing lockdown rules at the end of April, Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations reached record highs for 13 consecutive days.
Health experts fear the adverse health effect of the poor air quality in combination with the Novel Coronavirus.
Who are at the highest risk?
Some states are already heading to a health crisis linked to the Coronavirus pandemic. An environmental health professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, Gregory Wellenius issued the following warnings:
- Emerging evidence of potential adverse interactions between air pollution and the risk of COVID is already evident.
- People suffering or at risk of respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses are at a significant risk of severe consequences.
- Lung problems and heart conditions increase the risk of severe COVID-19 and added air pollution could exacerbate the danger.
- Health authorities urge people affected by the Gorilla Dust Cloud to stay indoors, especially those with already compromised health conditions.
A bit of good news
Meteorologists say the Gorilla Dust Cloud will delay the forming of hurricanes. The Saharan dust is too dry, and not the hot, humid environment required for the forming of hurricanes.