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Masks outdoors: Expert says wear them unless you're 15-20 feet away from people

What are the risks of transmitting COVID-19 when outdoors? Dr. Richard Corsi, an air quality expert at Portland State University, explains the concerns.

PORTLAND, Ore — With temperatures in the 90s, people have been crowding local beaches trying to cool off.

And many are not wearing masks.

That raises the question: What are the risks of transmitting the virus even when outdoors?

The guidelines in Oregon and Washington include wearing a mask, even outdoors, if you can't socially distance 6 feet from others.

"While there has been documented transmission from outdoor large gatherings, it appears to be much lower than indoors," said Dr. Richard Corsi, an air quality expert at Portland State University. "But there's still a risk."

Corsi said the main concern with crowds is close-contact transmission and sometimes 6 feet might not even be enough.

"If the wind is blowing in the right direction and someone's speaking from 15 feet away and a large droplet comes out of their mouth and the wind is blowing in the right direction, that can reach you," he explained.

At George Rogers Park in Lake Oswego we found most people were wearing masks, with the exception of youngsters.

Corsi said that's okay, but only if they keep their distance.

"We're seeing a higher and higher percentage of children getting COVID-19 or being diagnosed with COVID-19," he said. "In some cases I've seen half the rate of adults."

But what if you can't maintain that distance? For example, if you're hiking on a narrow trail.

Here's what Dr. Corsi did when he found himself in that situation.

"I personally put my mask on and when I got close to them I actually held my breath until I was pass them about 10 feet," he said.

Because when it comes to enjoying these hot, sunny summer days outdoors, sometimes 6 feet, without a mask, might not be enough.

If you want to do what Dr. Corsi does, then keep 10, 15, maybe even 20 feet of distance just to be safe.

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