Perlia Bell, an outreach worker with JOIN, talks to a woman about services after handing her gear.
Perlia Bell, an outreach worker with JOIN, talks to a woman about services after handing her gear.

Interim guidance updated April 7, 2022 

COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. All Oregonians age 5 and older are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Where to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Following the steps listed on this page can lessen the chance of introducing or spreading diseases like COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms

Many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Others can have a cough, difficulty breathing, muscle aches, headache, chills, or fever. 

Basics about how COVID-19 is spread

The virus spreads mainly indoors between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). This happens by droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes getting into another person’s mouth, nose, or lungs. 

The virus can also spread between people who are sharing the same airspace, and rarely by touching surfaces that have the virus on it. People can be infected and spread the virus to others even if they don’t have symptoms. 

What we know about how the virus spreads (CDC)»

Most people recover without needing to go to a doctor or the hospital.

Some people face a higher risk of having more severe symptoms, including serious lung infections. Those people tend to be older, unvaccinated, have weakened immune systems or have underlying medical conditions (things like diabetes, heart or lung diseases).

We have learned a lot about how to prevent COVID-19. Here are some steps to limit the spread of infections

  • Get vaccinated and provide information about getting vaccinated:
  • Wear masks or face coverings. (See more info below.)
  • Outreach workers and volunteers should not work when they are feeling sick and should not spend time with potentially vulnerable people. 
  • Wash hands regularly, if possible, or use hand sanitizer.
  • People should do what they can to avoid touching their noses, eyes, and mouths. 
  • Cover coughs & sneezes: Any cough or sneeze, even if someone otherwise feels well, should be covered — not with someone’s hands but by a mask, scarf or bandana.
  • As much as possible, encourage those you’re working with to limit sharing personal items, particularly cigarettes, food, phones, utensils and other items.
  • Routine cleaning: focus on high-touch surfaces, such as phones.

Medical Masks and Cloth Face Coverings 

We know that many people with COVID-19 never show symptoms and that people can spread the virus before they show symptoms. When there is a lot of virus spreading in our community, a well-fitted face covering or mask can block droplets from someone coughing, sneezing, or talking before they know they are ill. It protects the person wearing it AND those around them. 

State indoor mask requirements ended in many settings on March 12, 2022. Multnomah County will continue to request masks be worn in shelter settings for the time being. Some people may want to continue masking in other indoor settings.

Masks and face coverings should fit snugly to cover the mouth and nose. Simple ways to get the best protection.

Medical masks

Medical masks, also known as surgical or procedure masks, are less effective than KN-95 or N-95 masks, and work best when they are used properly.

Watch this video about correct medical mask use.

Cloth face coverings

If someone doesn’t have a medical mask, a bandana or other cloth face covering is fine. Here are some tips for creating and wearing face coverings:

  • The tighter the weave, the thicker the cloth, and the better it fits your face, the better the protection. In a pinch, you can use bandanas or scarves.
  • Homemade cloth face coverings should be washed daily or as often as possible with warm water and soap.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily through them.
  • Cloth face coverings can be itchy. Don’t reach under the mask to touch your nose or mouth.

Setting up a campsite to limit the spread of infection

As much as possible, people who are camping should work to separate individuals with respiratory illness symptoms (coughing, fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle aches, headache, or chills) from those without. This will stop the sick person’s respiratory droplets from getting into a well person through the air.

This is helpful even if coughing people are wearing masks or face coverings.

As much as possible, people who are sick should avoid sharing a tent with those who do not have symptoms of respiratory illness (like coughing). 

If space is constrained, then the guidance that Public Health has provided for shelters and other congregate spaces can be helpful. Create a six-foot buffer to separate those who have symptoms of respiratory illness from those who do not.

As much as possible, people who are coughing should try to keep their tissues, bedding and worn clothes and trash separate.


The risk of companion animals, including pets, spreading COVID-19 to people is low, based on the information available to date. 

To be safe, the CDC recommends that we treat pets as we would other humans – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside your family or group. As much as possible, keep pets away from people who are actively sick. 

Caring for someone with respiratory symptoms

Most people with COVID-19 recover without medical intervention. 

Offer basic care to help the person feel better:

  • Ensure they rest. And offer non-prescription medicines, like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) for symptoms like fever and aches.
  • Keep the sick person in a separate, well-ventilated space and apart from other people and pets as much as possible. If that’s not possible, keep a distance of at least six feet from people who are well. People who are sick should avoid sharing a tent with people who are well.
  • Avoid sharing bedding and clothing if someone’s been coughing or sneezing on them. 
  • A sick person who is coughing or sneezing should wear a medical mask or cloth face covering. Everyone around that person, especially the person taking care of them, should wear a mask or face covering or cover their nose and mouth when close to the ill person and especially inside a small space like a tent.

When to seek additional medical care 

Testing for COVID-19 is available at various sites around Multnomah County. Find a testing location.  Many shelters have a supply of self-tests.  

Someone should get medical help right away if they develop any of the following symptoms: difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, or if they’re unable to drink or keep liquids down.

An ambulance will come like usual when someone calls 911. The paramedics may be wearing extra masks and coverings to keep themselves healthy so they can keep working.

If someone knows someone who needs medical care but won’t seek it, they should urge them to do so — ask them to wear a mask or face covering and help them stay at least 6 feet away from others. 

Treatment is now available for people with COVID who have high risk conditions like trouble with their immune system, diabetes, advanced age, etc. Get tested early if you might have COVID because the treatments only work if they are started in the first five days of illness.  

Guidance for caregivers

The risk of catching a virus from a sick person is highest for their direct caretaker. But others who share space with a sick person should also take the same precautions to limit risk.

First, people should check their own health regularly, as best they can, to watch for the development of similar symptoms.

Caretakers and close contacts may want to wear masks around the sick person, and should wash or sanitize their hands and avoid touching their faces — particularly after sharing space with the ill person and handling their belongings.

As much as possible, clean frequently touched surfaces on a regular basis, using everyday cleaning products.

Avoid sharing personal items, utensils, towels or bedding with an ill person.

If laundry access is available or is being provided, items from a sick person and someone who’s not showing symptoms can be shared. But to avoid germs, people should avoid shaking dirty laundry or “hugging” dirty laundry to their chests to carry it.

Additional questions

What if someone asks why they should take these precautions if they feel well right now?

It’s true that many people who get COVID-19 may never develop serious symptoms or may never even know they had it in the first place.

It’s also true that the reality of trying to survive outside, day in and day out, all year, is life-threatening and deeply traumatic and challenging all on its own. 

It’s important to acknowledge that.

But because some people do face a higher risk of serious symptoms from COVID-19, including some of the people you might be camping with or spending time with, we want to make sure everyone has good information about COVID-19.