SOUTH COAST — Last week, Governor Kate Brown issued an order that residents in seven Oregon counties will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, counties along the South Coast have not been included in this list. While not mandatory, local health and county officials continue to urge the public to make smart decisions when it comes to health and hygiene.
“I think it’s safe to say that we would always recommend the use of personal protective equipment in order to continue our progress through this global pandemic. We, as a community, need to be looking out for each other which is in fact the main reason of wearing a mask,” said Eric Gleason of Coos Health and Wellness on Thursday.
In a press conference held on Thursday, Gov. Brown stated similar sentiments for Oregonians wearing face coverings.
"As we learn more about the disease, evidence continues to mount that face coverings play a critical role in reducing transmission. And as we adapt to living with this disease for the foreseeable future, face coverings need to become a part of our daily lives,” she said.
Brown stated that counties who would like to opt-in to this requirement are more than welcome to.
According to Coos County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins, this requirement was discussed between local commissioners before Coos County entered into Phase I.
“I am in favor of people wearing masks if they need to, my concern is that I feel like people get a false sense of security when wearing a mask and so they stop engaging in those other practices that we know are very effective for slowing the spread of the virus which is: staying home, washing your hands, maintaining six feet of social distancing,” said Cribbins.
“I’ve seen a lot of people with masks much closer than six feet. And then the problem is when you get out to your car and take your mask off because you think you’re in your car, then you’re just cross contaminating. You’re touching your hands, you’re touching your face, you’re putting it back up. Unless you are really good with wearing a mask and familiar with wearing a mask, it can actually make your chance of catching the virus higher.”
If face coverings were required, there then comes the issues of working to enforce that mandate.
“I never want to get in that position where we get into that ‘so what?’ position. ‘What are you going to do about it?’ It’s just like, we want to make it a choice for our citizens but we also want to make it the easy choice whenever possible and we want people, if they wear a mask, to wear them in a way that’s effective,” said Cribbins.
Coos Health and Wellness epidemiologist Brian Leon noted that a face covering mandate has pros and cons. There is a group that would then start more diligently wearing these face coverings and another portion of people who would ignore this order.
"Anecdotally speaking I’m a little bit more worried for our county than what I’ve seen in other counties as far as mask wearing,” said Leon.
“We really would like people to make behavior changes on their own. It’s almost to the degree, just very ineffective to get heavy about mandating something and trying to enforce it afterwards. I’m sure you can imagine that enforcement for something like this is a hornet’s nest.”