Victoria copies ‘outstanding’ US example

By | July 30, 2020

With the US leading the way in terms of coronavirus cases, it’s hard to imagine Australia would want to be copying anything they do.

But some states within the country – that’s recorded 4.4 million cases and 150,000 deaths so far – have done quite well at flattening the curve and are “outstanding examples” on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.

The comments come after Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews revealed that his Australian state was essentially copying mask policies in Oregon and other places, though he didn’t specify which.

The revelation came in response to a question over how making face coverings mandatory would work in regional Victoria for people still able to go to restaurants or the gym.

“There are some models from overseas that we’re going to essentially copy,” he said, after announcing Victoria’s worst day with 723 cases and 13 deaths.

“If you are seated, you don’t need to have a mask on, so when you’re eating or drinking.

“But if you are not seated, then you need to have your mask on.

“I know that’s going to be hospitality looking a bit different than it’s ever looked.”

Mr Andrews said he believed people could adapt, announcing he was extending the policy he implemented for Melbourne last Thursday to the whole state.

“That has worked in other parts of the world and we are confident it can work here also,” he said.

Oregon’s statewide face covering guidance stipulates people must wear a mask outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained and at any indoor public places. They are not required while eating, drinking or swimming.

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One of the main differences between Victoria and Oregan is that in the US state, children over five are required to wear a mask and it is “strongly recommended” for children aged between two and five.

Victoria has only mandated masks for over 12s.

Oregon has recorded 17,721 cases and 311 deaths.

Governor Kate Brown first introduced mandatory masks for select counties on June 24 before extending the order to the whole state on July 1.

On July 14 she announced they were expanding the policy again to include all outdoor spaces after cases continued to spike.

“Today we are sounding the alarm because we are at risk of letting the virus spiral out of control,” Brown said in a press conference at the time

“The question now is whether Oregon will be the next New York or the next Texas.”

She then added children over five last week.

After cases peaked on July 7 with 447 recorded, they have been gradually going down with just three recorded on July 28.

Their coronavirus website highlights that the state’s graph of cases shows what “flattening the curve” looks like.

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Dr Alex Polyakov, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, who holds masters degrees in epidemiology, biostatistics, and health law, said Victoria was yet to see the results of mask wearing.

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“Lockdowns are only effective to an extent so I think wearing a mask all the time, unless eating or drinking, is a wise strategy and I do think it will have an effect, they just haven’t had enough time,” he said.
“It will take a couple of weeks to see the effect on numbers.

“Oregon is one of the outstanding examples (in the US). I think they have done quite well containing the pandemic.”

Oregon has a population of 4.2 million and Victoria 6.3 million.

Dr Philip Russo, deputy chair of a group of infection control experts advising the

Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, said we had typically not followed what was happening in the US and the UK because of their high case numbers.

“But we had always said masks could be warranted when the prevalence of infections increased and that’s what we’re seeing in Victoria,” he said.

Hassan Vally, Associate Professor in Epidemiology at La Trobe University, said looking at overall trends, modelling suggested Victoria was at its peak.

“We’ll have to watch what happens over the next few days,” he said.

“There’s nothing majorly controversial about what we’re doing and what Oregon is doing, just wearing masks and we know masks work.”

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