Your Health: Doctors, state officials urge return to indoor mask use

December 2022 Posted in News, Your Health

Seasonal caseloads of flu and respiratory viruses coupled with the continuing presence of COVID-19 have led a group of Portland-area physicians and state officials to urge a return to indoor mask use.

Masks and the prevalence of seasonal illnesses on hospitalization rates were discussed at the Oregon Health Authority’s monthly media briefing on Dec. 8, although no state order on mask use has been recommended.

According to Dean Sidelinger of the OHA, Oregon saw a five-fold increase in hospitalizations from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the past month or so, with a rapid rise in flu hospitalizations, particularly among people 65 and older. The flu season began earlier this year as well, officials said, although they also noted that RSV hospitalizations appear to have peaked.

And the COVID-19 pandemic ”is not over,” Sidelinger said. COVID-19 levels in wastewater have risen, signaling increased community spread and spurring a 48% increase in the number of COVID-19-positive patients in hospitals in the past month. ICU hospitalizations have also gone up 30%, Sodelinger said, but the number of COVID-19 deaths has remained flat.

“Now is not the time to go to crowded indoor places like indoor birthday parties, play places, restaurants, grocery stores,” said Wendy Hasson, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. “Anything you can do to keep your child out of a crowded indoor area will help. Masking works.”

In addition to avoiding crowded indoor spaces, said Ray Moreno, chief medical officer at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, people can help reduce the pressure on hospitals by taking care of themselves and others.

“Get immunized for influenza. Get your booster for COVID. It is not too late,” Moreno said. “Please get immunized. And don’t gather if you’re sick, even just a little sick. Really, that protects other people.”

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