SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Bluer skies may be the silver lining on the cloud the coronavirus has cast over the Bay Area.

On Monday, the first official day of the summer Spare the Air season, officials said better air quality is just one of the many benefits of telecommuting during the COVID-19 shelter in place order and encouraged people to continue working from home, whenever possible, after it is lifted.

“As employers create plans to safely reopen their doors and continue operations once shelter-in-place orders are eased, we should not lose sight of the benefits that reducing traffic can bring – teleworking can be part of the solution to keeping our skies blue,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Since California issued its stay home order last March, the District says Bay Area traffic is down an estimated 70 percent, with more commuters working from home. As a result, levels of fine particulates, carbon dioxide, CO2 emissions and oxides of nitrogen have been significantly reduced.

In addition to air quality, District officials said better work-life balance, employee retention and recruitment, and cost savings for businesses are among the other beneficial byproducts of teleworking.

“These challenging times have demonstrated that teleworking can be a viable, flexible work option for many that benefits not only our air quality, but employers and employees as well,” said Broadbent

Spare the Air alerts may be rare during the shelter-in-place order, but will resume, should smog, or ozone pollution reach unhealthy levels.

During an alert, people should limit outdoor exercise in the late afternoon, when ozone concentrations are highest, according to the Air District. Seniors, people with asthma and other respiratory conditions, and heart conditions are particularly vulnerable.

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