▶️ Health experts urge public to stay inside as air quality reaches hazardous level

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Businesses like REI and Dutch Bros in Bend were closed for the day.

Airlines delayed or canceled flights.

Construction paused around Central Oregon.

Poor air quality from nearby wildfires created hazardous conditions for anyone outside Friday.

Dr. George Conway, the director of Deschutes County Public Health, said that’s a good thing.

“This is bad,” Dr. Conway said. “This is scary bad. This is not something we usually see.”

As of 7 a.m. Saturday., Bend’s air quality index is at 491, according to the Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality monitoring website.

Other air quality indexes show it even higher.

Either way, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality, according to the DEQ. Anything hazardous is greater than 300.

In Sisters, it was 368 Saturday morning.

“Basically everyone should stay inside that can,” Dr. Conway said. “That level of smoke and air quality problems is likely to have even healthy people to have a maybe runny nose, maybe cough, maybe difficulty breathing.”

With this high of an air quality index, people with any chronic illnesses, who are pregnant or have cardiovascular problems should take extra care to stay inside.

Door and windows should be kept closed. Dr. Conway recommends keeping an air filter running.

“Even people who don’t have known health problems, it still could cause them to have chest discomfort or potentially induce a problem that hasn’t expressed itself previously,” Dr. Conway said.

Dorrell Wenninger, a meteorologist for Central Oregon Daily News, said air quality will be hazardous through Friday night. It will be partially improving Saturday afternoon from hazardous to unhealthy.

The smoke is expected to settle in again Saturday night to a hazardous level. Sunday night should bring stronger winds that will start a gradual clearing process with improving air quality.

An air quality alert is in effect for Central Oregon until noon on Monday.

Until the air quality improves, Dr. Conway does not recommend wearing a mask to protect specifically against the smoke.

“You can provide yourself partial protection by having an N-95 mask, which means it traps 95% of those particles,” Dr. Conway said. “But in order for that to work it needs to fit your face well.”

Dr. Conway said to consult the DEQ’s website before heading outside this weekend. If your area has a red, maroon or purple dot on it, stay inside.

“I would avoid even for people who are relatively healthy discretionary exercise you don’t really have to do,” Dr. Conway said. “You should just skip if it’s orange and definitely if it’s red.”

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