Local health officials give guidance on ‘face coverings’

Coronavirus

The briefing included a Q&A session at the end

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all Americans should wear face coverings when out in public, local public health officers held a Friday evening briefing to go over this recommendation.

The press conference on federal guidance and regional health recommendations was hosted by Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County Health Officer, Dr. Sarah Present, Clackamas County Health Officer, and Dr. Christina Baumann, Washington County Health Officer.

The CDC guidance to wear cloth face coverings in public stemmed from recent studies that show that people with COVID-19 sometimes don’t show symptoms or don’t show severe symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. Face coverings decrease the number of droplets that spread when the person wearing it coughs or sneezes.

“In other words, when I wear a face covering, I protect you,” explained Baumann. “And when you wear a face covering, you protect me. This is one more thing that we can collectively do to protect each other.”

Tri-county health officials held a video conference press briefing on the CDC’s newest guidance to wear face coverings in public. April 3, 2020 (KOIN)

All three health officials, in turn, stressed that face coverings are useful in public as an added measure to social distancing, but do not replace existing stay-home or social distancing orders.

“Face coverings should not give people a false sense of security,” said Baumann. “It is critical that you continue to stay home as much as possible. And if you must go out, keep about six feet from others. Face coverings supplement these actions.”

It was also clarified during the briefing that “face coverings” should not be confused with “masks” — surgical masks or N95 respirators. Those must be reserved for health care providers who are experiencing shortages in materials. Health officials maintain that if you have any N95 respirators or surgical masks, donate them to the county you live in so that they can be distributed to local health care personnel. Each county in the tri-county area has a link online with information on where medical masks can be donated.

“What is being recommended today is more of a homemade face covering,” clarified Present. “What we can suggest is the tighter the weave, like thread counts on sheets, the thicker the cloth, the better it fits your face — the better the protection.”

Bandanas or scarves should be folded a couple of times to thicken the cloth around your face, but should not be so thick or tied so tight that you cannot breathe with ease. Any cloth used as a face covering should be changed when it becomes moist and washed after every use with warm water and detergent, according to Present.

“A face covering does not replace staying at home, and staying away from others, and staying home especially when you’re ill,” said Vines. “Please do not interpret this recommendation as an okay to go out as long as you’re wearing a mask.”

Present said that local health officials did not currently have any plans to enforce wearing face coverings as formal guidance. She instead referred to it as a recommendation for everyone to take every measure that they can to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Watch the full video conference briefing:

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