Oregon county reverses mask exception for people of color after ‘shocking’ backlash

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County leaders say they're 'shocked and appalled' by the 'horrifically racist commentary'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An Oregon county has backtracked on its decision to exempt people of color from its mandatory face mask policy, citing a “shocking” backlash of “horrifically racist commentary” from the community.

Lincoln County issued the directive on face coverings on June 17 and included several exceptions, including for people with certain medical conditions, children under 12 and “people of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public.”

The directive also said the mandate is self-executed and that no one is allowed to intimidate or harass individuals who do not adhere to it.

The decision to exempt people of color, which was made in an effort to ease worries over racial profiling, gained national attention.

But on Wednesday, Lincoln County reversed its decision to exempt people of color in response to public backlash and feedback from leadership within the county’s communities of color who asked for the policy to be revised because it was “making them possible targets for more hate.”

An updated list of exceptions to Lincoln County’s face covering directive can be found here.

Read Lincoln County’s full statement below:

“The expressions of racism regarding the exception has created a ripple of fear throughout our communities of color,” the Lincoln County Management Team said in a news release. “The very policy meant to protect them, is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment.”

Officials said they were not surprised to receive hateful calls from other parts of the country, but didn’t expect “the number of derogatory calls and emails” from their own communities.

The management team said they will continue to fight racism and are working on the details of a new plan that will be announced in the coming days or weeks.

The county ended the news release with the following:

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We are all frustrated with the lack of certainty and control over our lives. While we would like to be done with this virus, it is not done with us. Wear your face covering, be kind to each other. End racism now.”

– Lincoln County Board of Commissioners and County Management Team

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