What You Need to Know about the Governor’s New Face Mask Mandate

The governor’s new mask mandate takes effect Wednesday, June 24, in seven counties that contain more than 55 percent of the state’s population, including Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Marion.

Governor Kate Brown says the mandate follows the guidance of public health officials at the federal, state and local levels, who say the use of face masks can play a “critical role” in helping prevent the spread of Covid-19 — primarily by reducing the risk of asymptomatic carriers unknowingly transmitting it to others.

“We wear face coverings to protect the doctors and nurses working day and night in hospitals and clinics around the state,” Governor Brown said. “We wear them to protect our elderly neighbors. We wear them to protect kids in cancer treatment and people with compromised immune systems. We wear them to protect the grocery store clerk and the pizza delivery gal. We wear them because we don’t want to accidentally kill someone.

“It’s really that simple. Face coverings save lives.”

Here are a few things you should know about the new mask mandate.

It Applies to Most Indoor Places that are Open to the Public.

The new guidance applies to most businesses, including grocery stores, gyms and fitness studios, pharmacies, public transit agencies, personal services providers like hair and nail salons, restaurants and bars, retail stores, shopping malls and ride-sharing services.

In short, it applies to those businesses whose employees have been required to wear masks for over a month. So, when in doubt, if you see the staff masked up, it’s probably a good bet that the same is expected of you as a customer.

In counties that have entered phase 2 of reopening — which does not yet include Clackamas — the guidance also applies to swimming pools, theaters and entertainment facilities, indoor recreational sports facilities and other indoor venues.

In Clackamas County, we can only dream of the chance to wear a face mask while swimming in a public pool. Maybe someday.

Those with Disabilities or Medical Issues are Exempt, as are Children under 12.

If you or a loved one has a disability that renders you unable to wear a face covering (including cerebral palsy, autism or PTSD), or a medical issue that makes it difficult to breathe, you do not have to wear a face covering.

Children under 12 are also exempt, though it is still strongly recommended that they wear a mask if they can. Kids 2 and under, however, should never wear a mask.

Now, before those of you simply don’t want to wear a mask decide that claiming a medical exemption is a good way to go, please keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies only to Americans with disabilities. The healthy and able-bodied get zero protection from this particular law. Shocking, I know.

While it is true that a business cannot force you to wear a mask if you claim a medical exemption, nor can they ask for verification or more information about your disability, they also do not have to let you in. Period.

All the law requires is that they make “reasonable modifications” to serve you, which may include taking your order by phone and offering curbside pickup.

Face Masks Are Not that Hard to Find.

Face coverings deemed acceptable under the governor’s new guidelines can be cloth, paper or disposable, including bandanas and homemade masks. They can be purchased online or in most stores. Under the new guidance, businesses are encouraged to provide disposable ones to customers who do not have them, but they are not required to.

Free ones are widely available if you ask around. Down in Wait Park, you may even find them growing on trees.

And, if all else fails, you can always make your own — even if you don’t know how to sew.

Wearing a Face Mask for a Short Period of Time Will Not Hurt a Healthy Person.

We’ve all seen the memes. You may have even shared one or three. But, the simple fact remains: Wearing a face covering for a short period of time will not hurt a healthy person. At least — there is no evidence of it. And, since millions of Americans have been wearing them for months now, there probably would be some.

Unpleasant (especially if you wear glasses)? Sure. Annoying? Absolutely. But it will not hurt you.

Keep in mind: In the places you will be asked to wear a mask for 10, 20 or maybe even 30 minutes, the staff have to wear them for hours at a time. They are doing it because they care about your health, and because it’s required of them — and they want to keep their jobs and continue providing for their families.

So, how about a little solidarity for those essential workers we were all shouting out our appreciation for just a couple months ago?

Face Masks Are Controversial.

Last week, the Canby Now Podcast conducted a Facebook poll gauging local residents’ willingness to comply with the new mask requirement. Most said it would be no problem. Some, in fact, commented that they had already been wearing a mask in public for months.

But others — a full 25 percent — said they would rather drive the 30 minutes to Yamhill County (which was not one of the seven counties included in the governor’s mandate) than support local businesses here if it meant wearing a mask.

Face masks have become an increasingly bitter — and often, political — flashpoint, particularly on social media, but in-person confrontations have not been uncommon. Some of these have turned violent, even deadly.

However you feel about masks, please remember that Canby’s businesses and employees are not responsible for these new guidelines. They didn’t ask for them to be put in place, and they certainly didn’t ask to be the enforcers of them.

In the midst of a serious economic crisis, they need our support more than ever. So, if you can, please continue to give them your business.

They’ll thank you with a smile — even if you can’t see it.

The governor’s complete guidance on masks can be found here.

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