LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (PIX11) — From firefighters to sanitation workers, utility company crews, and others, some people had no choice but to be outdoors on Thursday, despite the warnings of low air quality. How many of coping with the conditions may be instructive for everyone else?
Orlando Colon is a short-haul truck driver who spends most days loading and securing payloads.
“I work outside all day. Every day,” Colon said while standing next to the flatbed crane truck he operates.
Being exposed for hours on end, he said, left him worried about some symptoms, but they ultimately didn’t materialize.
“I haven’t coughed all day,” Colon said. “I guess I’m getting used to this.”
That wasn’t the case for Ralph Tuckett. He works in the Long Island City MTA railyard. It’s up to half a mile across and two miles long, so Tuckett keeps a bike on site to zip between work areas.
The effect of that kind of physical activity, coupled with doing his work outdoors, was palpable.
“My throat is really choked up,” Tuckett said, adding that he’d been wearing a mask for most of the day. Still, he continued, he was just glad to be at work.
“Some guys took off today,” Tuckett told PIX11 News. “A lot of guys feel it in their throat, their nose. It’s rough. You don’t want to call in sick, but you know, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
It’s not just workers who were outside for extended periods. Other people were as well. Clara Robles, who said that she’s lived in Long Island City for decades, also said she was among the many people in the tri-state region who’d been caught off-guard by the air quality emergency.
“If you live alone, you’ve got no choice but to do the things,” Robles said, referring to the grocery run she had to do on foot.
As for the effect the errand run was having on her.
“I feel it a lot, especially in my chest,” Robles said.
However, Robles said, she found that Thursday’s haze was not the dark, deep orange murkiness that had enveloped the region on Wednesday.
“Yesterday was worse,” Robles said.
It was an observation that various people who spoke with PIX11 on Thursday made.
Among them was Anthony De Pina, a doorman at a high rise on Vernon Boulevard.
“It wasn’t like yesterday,” De Pina said.
Orlando Colon, the short-haul truck driver, made a similar comment, with his eye on Friday’s conditions.
“It’s definitely looking up,” Colon said.
The EPA’s AirNow.gov air quality measurement website shows that conditions in the New York City region should improve by Friday, although it will still be considered unhealthy, especially for older people, young children, and people who may have health issues, such as heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory challenges.