New study linking pollution with higher COVID-19 death rates raises concerns in Parramore

ORLANDO, Fla. — A new study is linking exposure to pollution to higher COVID-19-related death rates, raising concerns from the Parramore neighborhood where there have been complaints of pollution-induced health issues for years.

Layota Lee was just 43 years old when she died from an asthma attack, a condition her husband Allen said he believes worsened because they live in Parramore.

“These particles in the air don't affect everybody the same,” Lee said.

Read: Parramore residents demand action on neighborhood pollution complaints

In 2018, Parramore had the highest asthma rates in Orange County. Now, it has one of the county’s highest infection rates.

After a new study found a small increase in pollution can lead to a large increase in the COVID-19-related death rate, some say it’s no coincidence that Parramore is one of the county’s hot zones for coronavirus infections.

“Coronavirus

“It’s sad that it took a pandemic to bring the reality out,” said community activist Mike Cantone, who for nearly a decade has been working to draw attention to what he calls Parramore’s environmental injustice.

“I just hope it’s time for our local elected officials to join that conversation,” he said. “They can help get this done faster than the residents can."

The city has said it continues to work with its partners to increase testing, including a new site opening this week at Camping World Stadium.

“We’ll get through the health pandemic first and then let’s put the priority on Parramore,” Cantone said.

Read: Coronavirus: Florida shop owner makes face coverings from skin of Burmese pythons

It’s been eight years since the EPA last tightened standards on air pollution. In the past few days, the agency reiterated it believes current levels are safe enough, while it takes a harder look at the new research.

Orange County officials told us Parramore’s most recent air quality measurements are within “good and moderate” ranges, but the monitoring station is more than 4.5 miles away.

There are plans to build a new station at the interchange of I-4 and the 408 later this year. The previous station at that spot closed in 2017 due to I-4 construction.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.