The Oregon Health Authority reported three more deaths to COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the pandemic’s confirmed death toll to 497 in the state.
They deceased were:
- A 56-year-old Malheur County man who tested positive July 31 and died Sept. 9 at a hospital in Nampa, Idaho. Health officials are still determining if he had underlying medical conditions.
- An 81-year-old Multnomah County woman who tested positive Aug. 28 and died at her home on Sept. 8. She had underlying medical conditions.
- An 82-year-old Lane County man who tested positive Aug. 27 and died at his home Sept. 9. He had underlying medical conditions.
The state also reported 187 new diagnoses of the coronavirus Thursday, bringing known confirmed and presumptive cases in the state to 28,654 since the start of the pandemic.
The dangers of wildfire smoke
With dozens of wildfires burning hundreds of thousands of acres of land across Oregon, nearly the entire state is blanketed in a layer of wildfire smoke. The particulate matter from wildfire smoke poses a health hazard to people who breathe it, especially those with weakened lung systems such as people who may be battling or recovering from COVID-19.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the key protection strategy is to avoid exposure to the smoke. That means staying inside at home and using an air filter (both recommendations for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, too). If you are forced to evacuate your home or chose to leave to go to another area, OHA says to remember to wear a face-covering, use hand sanitizer and practice social distancing. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over.
Telling the difference between wildfire smoke symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms
If you are exploded to wildfire smoke, it can cause symptoms and conditions similar to those linked to a coronavirus infection. A dry cough, sore throat and difficulty breathing can be caused by COVID-19 or wildfire exposure. But a fever, chills, muscle or body aches and diarrhea are not linked to wildfire smoke inhalation and are a sign that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus. If you are experiencing the later symptoms, the OHA recommends checking your symptoms against the CDC’s COVID-19 self-checker to determine if you need to seek further medical attention. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, call 911 or the nearest emergency medical facility immediately.
If you’re forced to evacuate and must share space with friends or family, remember to plan for the threat of the coronavirus. Discuss the group’s plan for dealing with the virus and learn if there is anyone in the group who is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Be sure to cover coughs and sneezes and wash your hands frequently.
A shelter can be a crowded place, and with wildfire inhalation symptoms, it’s not uncommon for people to be coughing. The OHA says there are some simple steps you can take to keep yourself safe if you do need to evacuate to a wildfire shelter. Those include:
- Practicing social distancing from others
- Wash your hands often, cover coughs and sneezes and follow the shelter’s guidelines for masks and face coverings
- Avoid touching high-touch surfaces, including handrails and doorknobs. If you do touch one, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer immediately afterward
- Keep your living area in the shelter clean and disinfect often
- Lastly, if you feel sick when you arrive or start to feel sick after you show up, speak up. It could save lives