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Majority of calls and emails during listening session with commissioners suggest most local citizens are pro-mask.

Citizens in favor of wearing masks were in the vast majority of speakers at a Clackamas County listening session held virtually Wednesday afternoon. FILE PHOTO - CLACKAMAS COUNTY

County Chair Jim Bernard and Commissioner Ken Humberston hosted an hour-long forum at which they invited local residents to chime in on the subject of state mandates to wear facial coverings to protect against COVID-19, versus personal freedom for people to make their own choices in public spaces.

FILE PHOTO - Commissioner Ken HumberstonBy and large, most of those who wrote, called or logged in through Zoom said they understand the social responsibility of wearing a mask in public, both indoors and out, to help stem the transmission of novel coronavirus. FILE PHOTO - County Chair Jim Bernard

For example, Jake G. of Stafford said "we have laws that protect us on the road, we have secondhand smoke laws, I don't see how this is any different."

Andrea N. of Happy Valley said she called in to voice support for wearing masks because she thinks it's our collective civic duty.

"I feel like it's stepping up and doing our part, in a way, and generally for most of us it doesn't affect our ability to function," she said. "It's not comfortable, it's not enjoyable, it's hot outside. I recognize that, but if we all do it now, we don't have to do it for as long."

Rob C. from Milwaukie said he believes wearing masks is the responsible thing to do at the moment when so many states across the country — and counties within the state of Oregon — are seeing growing infection numbers.

"I wear my mask, I wear it even when I'm riding my bike on trails," Rob said. "It is not infringing upon my freedom. It's actually enhancing my freedom to be able to go ride out to do some grocery shopping."

Nina from Sandy said she's "emotionally exhausted" from all the people doing their own internet research and thinking they're an expert on whether or not masks are effective and safe.

"At the end of the day, it's a fabric mask. That is all anyone is being asked to wear," she said. "I am so tired of being labeled a fear monger for heeding the research and recommendations of institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, The Mayo Clinic and so many more."

Both elected members of the county commission took some time to reply to comments and thank citizens for their support in wearing a mask or for thoughts on how it was affecting them.

"With freedom comes responsibility. We don't get to do anything we want anytime we want at our own whim," Humberston said. "We follow speed limits for a reason because going 150 miles an hour on a road is very dangerous, and we have a responsibility to other people."

According to the county's Public and Government Affairs Department, there were more than two dozen emails sent in on the topic of masks and personal freedom ahead of the listening session, of which 70% reflected positive sentiments toward face-covering requirements.

Despite overwhelming support for masks, there were still a decent handful of local residents who called in to voice frustration with Gov. Kate Brown's mandates requiring face coverings and how it infringes on their personal rights.

For example, Karissa B. of Lake Oswego said that she feels living in a mask "isn't living at all."

"I want to smile at people, I want to be able to fully hear people, and I want to be able to fully breathe, I shouldn't be mandated to breathe an extra carbon monoxide," she said. "What kind of world are we creating here? This isn't a future I want. Some of my happiest memories are at festivals and concerts. It's not too late to turn the situation around, but it involves everyone standing up and telling our governor, 'No.' My God-given rights don't end where fear begins."

A few calls following Karissa's noted that humans do not exhale carbon monoxide.

Lexie from Clackamas emailed in to say that she feels the mask mandate is "an infringement, and even an assault on our personal liberties."

"The mandate perpetuates the idea that individuals lack the moral or intellectual capacity to make sound decisions for themselves and their children," Lexie wrote. "My husband and I are educated, responsible and independent people who are capable of using the wisdom necessary to keep ourselves and our children safe and healthy."

Another unidentified caller said he wasn't sure what to believe anymore because it seems like all the experts are either lying or don't know what they're talking about. He suggested that wearing a mask could cause low oxygen levels.

According to the American Lung Association, that is false, however, they do suggest that people with preexisting lung conditions should consult their doctor to find out the best option for them.

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