Governor Convenes COVID-19 Medical Advisory Panel, Recommends Use of Cloth Face Masks

Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday convened the first meeting of her COVID-19 Medical Advisory Panel, a group of doctors, infectious disease experts and medical professionals from across the state.

The panel was convened in recognition that the coronavirus pandemic is “a challenge unlike any Oregon’s medical community has ever faced,” the governor said. The group will review the status of COVID-19 in the state and make recommendations to the governor on future response efforts.

The panel will meet twice weekly and review Oregon’s response efforts in the areas of testing capacity, hospital capacity, personal protective equipment acquisition, and the continued effectiveness of Oregon’s social distancing measures.

The panel members will help to develop strategies to address pressing needs, identify potential gaps and challenges, and give feedback from the front lines of Oregon’s health care response to COVID-19.

“This is an unprecedented pandemic that impacts every one of us,” Governor Brown said.

The latest projections suggest the governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” orders and other social distancing restrictions have been effective in flattening the curve of COVID-19 spread in Oregon, but there is still “a long road ahead,” Brown acknowledged.

“We must ensure our state has enough personal protective equipment for our front line health care workers to sustain our response efforts, as well as expand our testing capacity so we can accurately measure and contain this outbreak,” she said. “Until the day there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, we will have to remain vigilant to prevent a resurgence of cases.”

The governor on Tuesday also commented on the use of homemade cloth face masks in public, which is now being recommended in new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They now say that wearing cloth masks in public places like grocery stores can help prevent those who are sick — particularly unknowingly infected, asymptomatic people — from spreading the virus further,” Brown said of the CDC.

She emphasized that “wearing a cloth mask may not keep you from getting sick, but it can help you prevent spreading the virus to others.”

The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to keep following the strict social distancing guidelines that have been put in place, she said, concluding, “Staying home is saving lives in Oregon.”

“Like every other strategy we have used to address this crisis, wearing homemade masks will only be effective if we all work together,” she said. “Continue to stay home to the maximum extent possible, and add wearing a homemade mask to the list of precautions you are practicing when you go out in public.”

The governor stressed that civilians should wear only homemade masks, not the surgical respirators and medical masks that are already in short supply for front line health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

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