Jackson County Public Health is reporting 13 new COVID-19 cases as of 12:01 am on September 13, 2020. This update brings the total reported COVID-19 cases in Jackson County to 967. To access additional data on the total COVID-19 cases, visit the Situation in Jackson County, Oregon webpage, or the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard website.
The Rogue Valley has been in the hazardous range consistently due to the wildfires which have taken homes, lives, and dreams. “We have to come out of this tragedy with the strength to rebuild. In order to do that, we have to keep ourselves safe, and that means protecting our bodies from long term damage due to the toxic air,” says Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer.
It remains important that during the wildfire response and wildfire smoke response that we do our best to remain aware of the risk of COVID-19. It is still recommended that people wear a face covering, practice physical distancing and wash your hands.
The overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic with wildfire season in the United States complicates public health response to wildfire smoke.
Wildfire smoke is a complex mixture of air pollutants that are harmful to human health. Exposure to air pollutants in wildfire smoke can irritate the lungs, cause inflammation, alter immune function, and increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. Recent scientific publications suggest that air pollutant exposure worsens COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes. “The smoky, dense air that surrounds us has tiny irritating particles (PM 2.5), so small that they can go deep into our lungs, and then into our blood, and inflame not only our airways but also our hearts and other organs,” says Dr. Jim Shames.
Populations known to be vulnerable to wildfire smoke exposures include:
- Children less than 18 years;
- Adults age 65 years or older;
- Pregnant women;
- People with chronic health conditions such as heart or lung disease, including asthma and diabetes;
- Outdoor workers;
- People of low socioeconomic status, including those who are homeless and with limited access to medical care.
- People who have had COVID-19 and are recovering from the virus
Here is what you need to know to stay safe:
- Being indoors is safer than being outdoors. The opposite is true when trying to avoid getting COVID-19, but you can remain indoors safely if you follow some basic precautions.
- Filtering the indoor air, sealing up cracks that allow outdoor air in, help reduce pollutants. You ideally want a device that can filter small particles out of the indoor air. You can cheaply make your own filter that works quite well: https://multco.us/multnomah-county/video-cleaner-indoor-air-when-skies-fill-smoke
- Wearing an appropriate mask to filter out pollutants. Again, what we know to stay safe against COVID-19 is different for wildfire smoke. For COVID-19, a simple face covering offers some protection. Those facial coverings offer no protection against the PM 2.5 particles in the smoky air. A tightly fitting N-95 (or P-100) mask offers the best protection. Those may be in short supply due to our first responders and medical personnel using them for the pandemic, and a KN-95 may be a good second-best option. Here are some useful facts about masks:
- If you have an N-95 mask, try and make it fit as closely to your face as possible. Different masks are more effective for certain faces. Men with facial hair may never achieve a tight fit with these masks. Here is some directions on how to use a N-95 masks for the general public https://www3.epa.gov/airnow/smoke_fires/respiratory-protection-508.pdf.
- Put your name on your mask. You may reuse it.
- Masks that fit over your head generally fit more snugly than those that are secured behind the ear. Many KN-95 masks attach behind the ears.
Check DEQ’s Air Quality Index (AQI) to see real-time air monitoring data from monitors placed around Oregon https://oraqi.deq.state.or.us/home/map. DEQ also has a mobile app for the AQI, search for OregonAir in your app store. Keep in mind that monitoring locations are limited, pollution levels may be higher in some areas, and wildfire smoke levels can rise and fall rapidly.
Here are the six levels of the air quality index and what each level means for your health:
Overall, people in Jackson County should follow the three W’s:
During these uncertain times, it will be important to do your best to slow the spread of COVID-19:
- WEAR a face covering
- WATCH your distance
- WASH your hands
For more information:
The public can call 211-information with general questions
OHA Emerging Respiratory Disease page: www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus
CDC COVID-19 page: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
CDC Travel within the US: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html
Jackson County Health and Human Services: http://jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19