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Air quality advisory issued for Jackson County

With choking wildfire smoke in Southern Oregon meeting the COVID-19 pandemic, local health officials are offering slightly different recommendations this summer than in past years for people in sensitive groups.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory for Jackson County warning of smoke flowing from California wildfires into Southern Oregon.

The advisory will last until 10 p.m. Saturday in Jackson County and until 10 p.m. Sunday in Klamath County, according to the National Weather Service meteorologist Miles Bliss.

Winds are bringing smoke from the Red Salmon Complex burning in Humboldt County, according to Bliss, but other California fires are also contributing to the smoke. According to Inciweb data, the wildfire complex near Willow Creek, California, had burned 30,848 acres.

Bliss said winds will gradually shift over the weekend, and Southern Oregon air quality is expected to dramatically improve Monday.

DEQ air quality monitors Friday afternoon showed particulates smaller than 2.5 microns had brought air quality in Medford, Ashland and Shady Cove to moderate levels Friday afternoon.

According to DEQ, air quality in Grants Pass was at unhealthy for sensitive groups Friday.

Unlike in past summers, public health officials do not recommend that people use N95 particulate masks or P100 respirators to protect themselves from smoke.

Instead, Jackson County Public Heath officials recommend that people sensitive to smoke — such as pregnant women, seniors and people with asthma, emphysema and other chronic health conditions — limit their exposure to wildfire smoke by staying indoors.

Recent studies indicate that exposure to air pollutants worsens COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes, according to Jackson County Health and Human Services.

Although government-certified masks are beneficial in filtering out particulates, health officials say the particulate respirators are in short supply this year and that health care workers need the masks and respirators to respond to COVID-19.

People in sensitive groups should keep all windows and doors closed, and use air conditioning and air filters to treat the air inside their home, and should avoid physical activity in smoky conditions.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

file photo Wildfire smoke settles in the Rogue Valley.