By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Smoke raises COVID respiratory risks

In the days leading up to Labor Day, Oregonians were urged to stay home and avoid gatherings and those not living in their households, in an attempt to lessen spikes in COVID-19 the state recorded after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

It will take time to discover how well residents complied.

The Oregon Health Authority also asked people to wear masks during western Oregon’s recent blazing temperatures and warned that smoke pouring into the area from extensive wildfires in Oregon and Washington is worsening air quality and raising risks associated with respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. The disease already is known to cause breathing problems.

An air quality alert on Tuesday for the Willamette Valley and Portland metro area, along with other areas, was issued by the National Weather Service, in conjunction with the Southwest Clean Air Agency, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

They noted cloth, dust and surgical masks won’t block smoke particles, and warned residents to stay indoors and keep the windows closed while unhealthy air conditions persist, and use HEPA air filters, if available.

Yamhill County Public Health reported 683 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, which included 10 new cases Saturday, two on Sunday and eight on Monday. Of the 31 new cases over the holiday weekend, 20 were in McMinnville. There have been 14 deaths in the county, the latest on Aug. 15.

Oregon as a whole reported 605 new cases over the three-day weekend, along with seven deaths, bringing the state’s case total to 28,190 by Monday, and the death toll to 482.

Although neighboring Washington and Clackamas counties are still in Phase one of reopening, Yamhill County remains approved for Phase 2.

The state has added a new requirement for counties to enter Phase 2: fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 cases per week.

As of the week of Aug. 29, Yamhill County had a per-week rate of 43 cases per 100,000; the state has not yet updated the data for September.

However, that figure is a decline from the numbers the county was seeing earlier in August and in September.
 

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