Laura Kate Bender on COVID-19 and Lung Health in the United States

In this video, Laura Kate Bender, from the American Lung Association, talks about how COVID-19 has affected patients with existing lung disease in the United States, as well as the lessons learned from the pandemic. Read the transcript here.

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Laura Kate Bender is the national assistant vice president for healthy air at the American Lung Association.



My name is Laura Kate Bender, and I'm the National Assistant Vice President for Healthy Air at the American Lung Association.

So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I think the first thing that's important to acknowledge is that people are facing multiple threats to their lung health at once. The research is still emerging, as to the links between air pollution and COVID-19, but some early research looks like it may show that there is a link between long-term exposure to certain types of air pollution and COVID-19 outcomes at the community level.

While we're figuring out that additional research, it's important to remember that air pollution in general can make people more vulnerable to lung health infections and so it's critical in this time of COVID-19 that we work even harder to address air pollution and climate change, knowing the impacts that it has for people facing multiple threats to their health at once.

One of the nice things that happened as a result of people driving less was that we actually did see decreases in air pollution across the country. But one of the challenges, of course, is that those aren't permanent. As soon as people started, and will start, to drive the same amount they did in the past, as soon as things return to their pre-COVID levels, we will see those gains erased.

But we think of it as a vision of what's possible if we do transition the nation to clean, renewable electricity and zero-emission transportation—so electric vehicles running on clean power but, of course, also communities that allow for more walking and biking and public transit.

Our State of the Air report looks at the most recent quality-assured data, so we won't actually see this year's reductions in air pollution until a couple years from now in the report, because that's how long it takes to get and validate all the data that goes into the report.

But we do think of it as a chance to highlight what could be possible with a world with cleaner, zero-emission transportation and power.

I can personally say that I, even when we're able to meet in person, will be continuing to use some of the lessons that we've learned during COVID, which is that virtual meetings can feel like in-person meetings. They can have the impact that we want when we want to meet in person. It's also more inclusive to allow people to skip traveling and to be able to attend from all over the country when they may not otherwise be able to.

I'll certainly carry those lessons forward. I'll also say personally that being able to take advantage of telehealth has been enormously helpful, and I'm glad to see that everyone has gotten more used to it, and they will be able to carry that into the future when it's healthy to do so.

And we know It's no substitute for having the in-person care that you need when you need it. But I do think that, at least my experiences that they're having appointments that I may have gone in for in-person that I have done over video that worked.

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