Editorial: Please leave masks for the ill

Editorial: Please leave masks for the ill

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As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes more prevalent in Oregon and individuals look for ways to protect themselves, several health and public safety agencies of Benton and Linn counties ask healthy individuals to please leave masks at health facilities for those who are ill.

“Masks should be worn only by those with symptoms of respiratory illness like coughing, as this is one way to help prevent the spread of viruses, including coronavirus,” said Adam Brady, MD, infectious disease specialist with Samaritan Health Services.

Brady said that masks can give healthy people a false sense of security, because most individuals aren’t trained in the proper use of masks or proper hand hygiene before and after wearing a mask.

“The CDC does not recommend the use of masks to prevent healthy people from getting sick. If you touch the outside of a mask, this could contaminate your hands and lead to a greater risk of getting sick yourself,” he said. “We need to ensure that masks are available to those who need them. If patients without symptoms take a mask, they are putting others at risk as masks may not be available to those with symptoms.”

“Protective equipment, including masks, is important when caring for ill patients,” said Tavis Cowan, MD, Medical Director of Occupational Medicine for The Corvallis Clinic. “Keeping this equipment available for appropriate health care workers is vital in keeping our whole community safe and healthy.”

Officials with local county health departments, Samaritan Health Services, The Corvallis Clinic and Oregon State University Student Health Services are reporting that healthy people are taking masks in their facility waiting areas. These officials, as well as representatives of local fire and police departments, are also reporting a shortage of masks available to order.

Due to the limited supply of masks, some agencies have removed them from waiting areas. Other agencies have moved their masks to locations where staff can monitor them. Benton County Public Health gives one mask to each patient. Linn County Public Health requests patients with symptoms to call the clinic, and an employee will meet the patient with a mask outside the clinic.

Here are the best ways to prevent the spread of viruses:

• Don’t touch your face, because viruses can enter your system through your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Wash your hands with soap frequently.

• Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

• Disinfect all surfaces around your home and work with disinfectant wipes or spray.

For more information about COVID-19, visit oregon.gov/OHA or call 211.

This joint statement was provided by a coalition of mid-valley health organizations and agencies

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