PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With cases of RSV and the flu forcing hospitals into crisis mode, local physicians and state officials are encouraging the public to put the mask back on when indoors.

“Anytime you have to go to an indoor crowded area during this surge, if you and your child can wear a mask, that will help protect the [health care] resources,” said Wendy Hasson, the medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. “Now is not the time to go to crowded indoor places like indoor birthday parties, play places, restaurants, grocery stores… Anything you can do to keep your child out of a crowded indoor area will help.”

Hasson and three other physicians joined state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger Thursday for Oregon Health Authority’s monthly COVID-19 media briefing, which focused on the strain being put on hospitals due to respiratory illnesses.

Sidelinger called the situation in Oregon hospitals “extremely serious.”

“Today, more hospitals are reaching a point of crisis in their adult bed capacity just as our pediatric hospitals moved to crisis care standards in the past two weeks,” he said. “The combination of surging flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases is pushing hospitals past their current ICU bed capacity, which never happened during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oregon.”

Sidelinger also strongly encouraged Oregonians to put their masks back on when they are in a crowded indoor space.

“We know what works to keep our families and our neighbors safe. Wear a mask when you’re in crowded indoor places this winter and stay up to date on your vaccinations,” Sidelinger said. “Masks work. During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregonians wore masks at higher rates than people did in most other states. Oregon had one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the nation. Our hospitals were never overwhelmed. And we saved more than 5,000 lives.”

Matthias Merkel, a senior associate chief medical officer at OHSU, echoed those same sentiments.

“Definitely wear a mask if you go in public places,” he said. “Definitely get all your vaccines to really minimize the risk that you are the next patient in one of our totally full emergency rooms, waiting for the next ICU bed to be made available for you.”

OHA media briefing on Youtube

The entire media briefing is available to watch on the OHA YouTube, find it by following the link above.