The Surprising Silver Lining of the Coronavirus Pandemic


Hannah Barrios, Guest Contributor

If you are currently an average American, your morning likely consists of waking up, preparing for the day, and making the long commute to whatever laptop or computer is nearest in your home. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many governments and communities across the world have decided to limit in-person interactions and encourage stay-at-home orders for workers, students, and citizens. The result has left many citizens working or schooling from home and avoiding trips into the community.

As major urban and suburban areas across the nation shut down, leaving their citizens with such schedules, fewer individuals need to commute to work or go out for recreational purposes. Because of this abrupt shift in community patterns, there are far fewer cars on roads and almost none of the typical rush-hour traffic. As a result of this significant decrease in transportation, cities across the nation are experiencing more “good quality” air days, as determined by the Air Quality Index (AQI), sponsored by the EPA.

In our home, Tampa, daily air quality has improved significantly in the short time individuals have been under a stay-at-home directive. This is clear through analysis of daily air quality data provided by the EPA from before the directive and just a few days ago, approximately two weeks into communitywide self-quarantine. The data shows a significant decrease in the amount of two types of Particulate Matter and Ground-Level Ozone, important air quality markers and two of the six major pollutants specified under the U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards.


Tuesday March 3, 2020

Pollutant AQI Levels
Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 44
Particulate Matter (PM) 10 29
Ground-Level Ozone 42


Tuesday March 24, 2020

Pollutant AQI Levels
Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 18
Particulate Matter (PM) 10 19
Ground-Level Ozone 33

Data provided by the EPA at


These improvements are promising, offering health benefits to Tampa residents and environmental benefits in the immediate atmosphere. However, they are as temporary as the directives that caused them. As many employers and business are not normally under the current limitations, once the quarantine is lifted, there is a high likelihood that level of fossil fuel-powered transportation will return to normal, bringing air pollution levels up with it.

However, as always, there is an opportunity to learn as a community from the benefits of purposeful transportation and institute communitywide as well as individual changes that will contribute sustainably to healthy air.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control on the COVID-19 virus and steps you can take to help stop the spread: