City of Berkeley’s air quality index drops below ‘unhealthy’ level, all Monday classes canceled

Karen Chow/File

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The city of Berkeley’s air quality index, or AQI, has dropped to 121 after exceeding 150 — a level deemed unhealthy for prolonged or heavy exertion, as of press time Monday.

In a UC Berkeley campuswide email sent about 10 a.m., the campus encourages everyone to stay inside to whatever extent possible. In addition, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should take extra precaution, according to an Alameda County alert.

Although the AQI has dropped below an unhealthy level, all Monday classes and events have been canceled, according to a separate email sent by UCPD at 12:24 p.m. The email said another update will be sent regarding the status of Tuesday campus operations.

Academic leaders are meeting to discuss the power outage and air quality challenges and are seeking to continue instruction, according to a campuswide email sent at 12:40 p.m.

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library will be open from 5-10 p.m. Monday and at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Moffitt Library will remain open 24 hours a day, the later email said.

University Health Services, or UHS, has a limited supply of N95 respirators reserved for those most in need, according to a campus Division of Student Affairs press release. Students with medical conditions that put them at high risk for adverse effects, as well as students who experience symptoms related to air quality, can be assessed, treated and given respirators by UHS. The campus Office of Environment, Health and Safety also handed out respirators to employees at University Hall until the AQI fell below 150, after which distribution at this site ended.

The campus is acquiring more masks and is organizing distribution sites around campus for all other members of the campus community who need them, the second email said.

While N95 masks provide limited particulate filtration, however, they are proven to provide protection only if individually fitted by a trained technician and do not necessarily filter harmful chemicals found in smoke. Distribution of the masks is being prioritized for those who work outside, according to the later campus email.

In the meantime, students are encouraged to avoid the campus until power from the ongoing PG&E scheduled outage is completely restored. Moffitt Library, however, is open for those who wish to study.

Alex Casey is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey.