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With recent news that federal authorities may recommend wearing masks in public, Oregon Health Authority is reminding Oregonians that staying home and avoiding all non-essential contact with others continues to be the most important thing all of us can do to stay healthy and keep others healthy. And during moments where people must go out of the house, they should stay at least 6 feet apart from others at all times.
Before deciding whether to wear a mask, Oregon Health Authority recommends people keep two considerations central:
Medical masks should be reserved for health care providers who are on the front lines working with patients most likely to have COVID-19. We have had shortages of those masks -- and it's critically important that our health care workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs.
Non-medical mask use (e.g., homemade fabric masks) does not replace the need to follow guidance to stay home and limit our contact with others. It does not replace frequent handwashing, avoiding touching the face, and staying away from people who are ill. These are the most important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.
"We continue to stress that medical masks are essential for health care workers who are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19," said Paul Cieslak, MD, medical director for communicable diseases, OHA Public Health Division. "We need to preserve supplies of medical masks for our health care workers so they can stay safe as they work to keep all of us healthy. For the general public, homemade fabric masks, especially if well-made and well-fitting, may provide some benefit."
Wearing a fabric mask can help prevent the spread of infection to others when the mask is worn by someone who already is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, particularly if the person is coughing. The mask may block some infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes and, to a lesser degree, speaks.
"The data do not tell us how much protection homemade cloth masks provide to the person wearing a homemade mask. For this reason, homemade and fabric masks should not be considered reliable protection; but they may provide some benefit," said Cieslak. "Above all, we continue to stress that the reliable tool we have right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is strict social distancing -- as outlined in Governor Brown’s ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ orders."
Source: Oregon Health Authority