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RENO, Nev. (KTXL) — A new study led by the Desert Research Institute claims that exposure to wildfire smoke is linked to an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

The study says that a 17.7% increase in COVID-19 cases was found in Reno following prolonged smoke exposure caused by wildfires between Aug. 16 and Oct. 10, 2020.

“Our results showed a substantial increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate in Reno during a time when we were affected by heavy wildfire smoke from California wildfires,” said Daniel Kiser, an assistant research scientist of data science at DRI who co-led the study.

The study goes on to say that Reno was exposed to higher concentrations of fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke for longer periods of time in 2020 than any other metropolitan area, including San Francisco.

“We believe that our study greatly strengthens the evidence that wildfire smoke can enhance the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” said Gai Elhanan, an associate research scientist of computer science at DRI who co-led the study with Kiser.

The study can be read in full by clicking or tapping here.