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Jackson County Recommends Everyone Wear Face Masks, Whether Sick Or Healthy

Noa Traylor of Weed, California
April Ehrlich | JPR News
Noa Traylor of Weed, California, wears a mask during the 2018 wildfire season in Ashland.

Jackson County is now recommending that everyone wear face masks — whether you’re sick or healthy  — to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Centers For Disease Control recommends that only people who are sick or caring for a sick person wear a face mask. Officials with the agency say they’re considering expanding that recommendation to include everyone but they have yet to do so, out of fear that people will buy masks that hospital workers need more.

But Jackson County Public Health Medical Director Jim Shames says there’s enough data to show that wearing even a homemade face mask is better than nothing.

“If I think the CDC is lagging behind, and I don’t see a significant amount of harm, and I see a lot of people in our community are stepping forward and making theses masks — I feel like it’s time to say that,” Shames says.

Homemade masks may deflect some of the larger infectious droplets, but they are not foolproof. The best way to protect yourself is through handwashing and social distancing.

Still, Shames says healthy people should refrain from using N95 respirators — the white form-fitting masks that tend to be worn by construction workers — which filter out finer particles.

“They should be reserved for health care workers and emergency personnel almost solely,” Shames says. “There are very few situations where someone who is not in that category should be wearing one.”

One of those situations includes wildfire season, when the only mask that can effectively protect your lungs from fine smoke particles is an N95 respirator.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.