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OHA recommends return to indoor masking as respiratory illnesses rage

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To help prevent further spread of respiratory illnesses, the Oregon Health Authority now recommends that everyone over two years old return to masking when indoors.

For the third time in as many years, health officials are worried about holiday gatherings. But this year—it’s more than COVID-19 driving concern. Other respiratory illnesses, including RSV, are at historically high levels, prompting the call for a return to indoor masking.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, Influenza activity has doubled for five consecutive weeks. Hospitalization rates for the elderly with flu have increased ten-fold.

Dr. Ray Moreno works at Portland’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. He said we need to get back to the prevention tactic that works.

“If you are in crowded spaces, wear a mask. Masks work,” Moreno said. “And how do we know this? When we look over these past years with the very strict masking—we didn’t see much Influenza in our communities. We didn’t see much RSV. So, masks really work to protect us from these respiratory illnesses.”

Tiffany Eckert
"Masking works," says health officials supporting the state's recommendation to wear them when in crowds. Influenza, RSV and COVID-19 cases are rising in Oregon at alarming rates.

Moreno added before the holiday get togethers, everyone who can, should get the flu shot and COVID-19 booster.

Respiratory illnesses are taking a serious toll on infants and children and pushing emergency departments to the brink. Portland physician Wendy Hasson is with Randall Children’s Hospital. She has some has strong advice for adults.

“I have admitted many patients over the last two weeks with the flu,” Hasson said, “and I have not admitted a single patient who has received the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines work. They keep kids out of the hospital and I cannot stress this enough if you’ve been on the fence about getting your flu vaccine, now is the time.”

Hasson joins the Oregon Health Authority in recommending that adults and children over two wear masks in crowded indoor spaces during this respiratory season.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.