On April 3, the CDC changed its guidance around face masks and their role in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. They now recommend that Americans wear face masks or face coverings when out in public.
Some cities have gone a step further and made wearing masks a requirement. With all the conflicting guidance and recommendations, a lot of Oregonians are wondering: are face masks mandatory and should we be wearing them?
Here’s what you need to know about face masks in Oregon during the coronavirus:
Oregon State Officials Are Recommending That People Wear Cloth Masks in Public, But It Is Not Mandatory
Health officials in the state of Oregon are recommending that people were masks in public, and say that anyone visiting essential businesses should be wearing a face covering. Officials are echoing the guidance from the CDC, which says that simple homemade masks are effective in areas where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing, such as in supermarket aisles.
On April 4, the Oregon Health Authority issued a guidance on the use of homemade masks or face coverings. In the guidance, they emphasize that “the most effective strategies to prevent infection include the physical distancing measures mandated by the Governor’s Executive Orders, along with basic hand hygiene and cough etiquette.”
However, the OHA then adds that “the use of cloth face coverings may reduce the spread of virus and help prevent those who have the virus but do not have symptoms from passing it to others.”
Wearing a Face Mask Does Not Mean That People Should Ignore Social Distancing, Officials Clarify
Various local health officials in the state have added clarifications to this guidance. A Multnomah County Health Officer, Dr. Jennifer Vines, told local news that people should “not interpret this recommendation as it’s OK to go out as long as you’re wearing a mask. If you are sick, this is not an option for you. You should be staying at home.”
During a video conference call with the press, Washington County Health Officer Dr. Christina Baumann added that “face coverings don’t meet infection prevention (guidelines) for healthcare workers, but cloth covers block droplets from people who might have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic and have mild symptoms. If we have no symptoms, or mild symptoms, when I wear a face covering, I protect you. And when you wear face covering, you protect me.”
All health officials have reiterated guidelines that face masks should be either basic cloth masks bought online or face coverings made from fabric at home, like a scarf, t-shirt or bandana. N95 respirators and surgical grade masks are in short supply and must be kept for healthcare workers on the front lines.