Newport, OR – Lincoln County, Oregon has rescinded an order that exempted people of color from the mandate that residents wear face masks in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
CNN reported county officials retracted the exemption after criticism of the policy.
“We included the last protection for those within our communities of color who historically, and often personally, found themselves the victims of harassment and violence,” the county stated in a press release.
“After last month’s protests, the national attention given to issues of racism, police tactics and inequity, we felt this last exception would be embraced and understood as a small effort to start addressing the realities some of our neighbors deal with on a daily basis,” the county said.
But the county didn’t get the reaction it expected.
“We are shocked and appalled at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exception. The vitriol that county leadership, staff, and community partners, have been subjected to is unprecedented,” the county stated in its press release.
“All this only a month after George Floyd’s death. The expressions of racism regarding the exception has created a ripple of fear throughout our communities of color. The very policy meant to protect them, is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment,” the press release said.
The order initially stated that certain groups of people were exempt from complying. It included children under the age of 12 and people with certain disabilities that would be impacted by wearing a face mask.
Then the order stated it also exempted, “People of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public.”
A county in Ohio also created controversy with its policy on face masks and its impact on non-white people.
CNN reported on May 22, “Franklin County Public Health issued guidance for communities of color who have expressed reservations about wearing face coverings in public.”
CNN reported the Ohio document titled, “COVID-19 General Guidance on Wearing Face Mask for African Americans and Communities of Color,” had recommendations such as: “Avoid fabrics that elicit deeply held stereotypes.”
The examples included bandannas, skull prints and horror prints, according to CNN. “When utilizing a homemade mask, avoid bandannas that are red or blue, as these are typically associated with gang symbolism,” the order stated.
Additionally the county health department said “it is not recommended to wear a scarf just simply tied around the head as this can indicate unsavory behavior, although not intended.”
CNN reported Franklin County Public Health then tweeted an apology that stated, “some of the language used came across as offensive and blaming the victims.”