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Air quality advisory extended, expected to get worse in many areas

With the smoke continuing to settle in the valley, experts expect the air quality to reach hazardous levels pretty soon.

PORTLAND, Ore — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has extended an air quality advisory through at least Monday for all regions of the state and Southwest Washington. In many areas, air quality is expected to get worse.

Portland is one of those places. With the smoke continuing to settle in the valley, experts expect the air quality to reach hazardous levels pretty soon.

As of 7:30 p.m. Friday, air quality in Portland was still listed as very unhealthy. It was among of the worst conditions seen in decades.

Earlier in the day Portland was in the hazardous zone, which is "really a dangerous level of air quality," Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said.

Many areas to the south of Portland were also in the hazardous zone. "This is certainly the worst I've seen in my career," said Vines. 

The problem is that smoke will likely stick around for days. "Once you get to hazardous, the advice is that everyone should avoid any outdoor activity," she said.

Dr. Vines also recommended that through the weekend, people should keep tabs on the air quality in their area. The DEQ has an interactive map on its website. You can also track air quality on the Oregon smoke blog.

Then make a plan and stay inside. Keep your doors and windows shut. If you have one, set that portable air purifier to high and if your air conditioner to re-circulating. The same goes for traveling in a car. 

And while those cloth masks we're all wearing will certainly help prevent the spread of coronavirus, they do not keep the smaller and dangerous smoke particles from reaching our lungs.

"I'll be the first to admit that this goes directly against the kind of advice I've been giving for months now on how to prevent COVID-19," said Vines.

It is understandably a lot to think about on top of so much going on.

Which is why Dr. Vines recommends staying connected to others while staying indoors.

"Do what you can to help other people," she said. "Send your thoughts to those most affected by this fire who are losing lives and homes in other parts of our state."

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