Elected Officials Split on Use of Masks to Curb Covid-19

The mayor and several city councilors share concerns about the steep rise in new cases of Covid-19, but split on the issue of wearing face masks vs. exercising personal freedom, an inquiry by the Canby Now Podcast shows.

The same questions on Covid-19 health guidelines and the use of masks were sent to all members of the Canby City Council, but only councilors Greg Parker and Sarah Spoon, along with Mayor Brian Hodson, responded in a timely fashion.

Councilors Tim Dale, Shawn Varwig and Trig Berge said they could not provide answers within the allotted time frame — admittedly, a tight four-and-a-half-day turnaround — but did not say how much more time they would need.

(Update: Council President Dale and Councilor Varwig responded after this story was originally published. Their answers have been included in the pdf below.)

Councilor Traci Hensley did not respond to multiple requests for inquiry.

Mayor Hodson said he believes residents should follow all of the “common-sense items” that have been asked of us, including frequent hand washing with soap and water, social distancing, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and staying home when sick.

But he did not include the use of face masks in that list, saying he feels it should be a personal choice.

“I believe that it is up to each person on how they handle it, especially the face mask piece,” said Hodson, who has worn a face covering at recent public appearances. “I wear one because I do not want to spread it, or at least, minimize it. I follow the guidelines because I believe that is what I am asked to do.”

Councilor Parker was more succinct in his view that wearing a mask is “a small inconvenience to ensure public health and keep businesses open,” while Councilor Spoon said she believes those who are medically able to wear them should.

“I don’t know anyone who likes wearing masks,” she said. “It isn’t fun, and it’s an annoyance and inconvenience, but if wearing masks helps reduce the spread even a little, then it saves lives and it’s worth doing.”

On the issue of personal freedom, both councilors felt that wearing a face mask need not be a political statement.

“America is built on the pursuit of freedom and the right to individualism. That’s an apolitical experience that binds Americans together,” said Spoon. “I’ve always thought of Canby as a very neighborly place where we care about those who share this town with us. … This is an opportunity for all Americans to unite behind the common goal of keeping our country safe.”

On the issue of enforcement, Mayor Hodson espoused that it should ultimately rest with the governor — who made the mandates — and state agencies. If a resident were to encounter a business that is not following the mandates, it should be up to him or her how they want to handle the situation, including talking to the owner, filing a report with regulating authorities, or simply shopping elsewhere.

He does not believe it should fall to the Canby Police Department to enforce the state’s new rules, and he worries about the direction toward which the mandates and society, in general, might be going.

“Personal responsibility has to come into play at some point in all of this,” he said. “The more we are told ‘YOU MUST DO THIS!’ the more people will do the opposite. What will this then escalate to? More people ‘Mask Shaming’? Citations by CPD for not wearing a mask? Show proof that you have a pre-existing condition? Proof that you had it? You must take the Rona Vaccine to be allowed in school? No Proof of Vaccine, then you cannot come in? Where is this headed?”

Councilor Spoon also evoked personal responsibility in arguing for why those who can should follow the guidelines, to help keep employees safe and businesses open.

“If we can’t all be responsible for our role in stopping the spread by wearing masks or using the new services businesses offer, I worry that businesses will be asked to close again,” said Spoon, a small business owner herself. “I hope we all support our most vulnerable populations and our businesses by doing our part even when it means wearing a mask we don’t want to wear.”

County commissioners will hold a virtual listening session at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to hear from residents about the mask mandate and its impact on personal freedoms. To join, click here or call 408-638-0968, 669-900-6833, or 253-215-8782. The webinar ID is 921 3487 3158.

Commissioners have advocated for residents to follow the recommendations of public health officials at the national, state and local levels in wearing face masks in public spaces. Starting Wednesday, statewide guidelines have expanded, requiring Oregonians to wear face masks at outdoor gatherings where six feet of social distancing may be difficult to maintain.

The complete answers by Hodson, Parker, Spoon and Dale are available below:

Click to access Canby-City-Council-Covid-19-Questions-4.pdf

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