Tensions run high in Oregon City as mask mandate hits
In the wake of the governor's latest indoor public mask mandate, tensions ran high this week among Oregon City commissioners and small business owners.
Commissioner Rocky Smith accused fellow city elected officials of failing in "upholding and following our own city guidelines" by not wearing a mask in the newly constructed Commission Chambers room during an Aug. 10 meeting, when the governor had indicated future plans to reinstitute a mask mandate. In response to health officials concerns about the extra-contagious delta variant of COVID-19, Oregon City officials had already begun requiring masks at the library and other public buildings.
"Our staff policy citywide is that our employees wear masks in the buildings, and that everyone wears masks in the buildings," Smith said.
Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith responded that as of Aug. 10 there wasn't a mandate, but that recommendations and mandates were changing on a daily basis.
"It's much easier to have conversations and conduct these meetings in person," Lyles Smith said.
Commissioner Denyse McGriff decried having to go back to wearing masks for indoor meetings, which city officials had previously determined could be conducted safely without masks as long as there was sufficient space between people.
"When I'm talking I'm not going to have it on, and when I'm not talking I am going to have it on, because it's hard to hear," McGriff said.
You Can Leave Your Hat On owner Sandra Gillman said she had the best July in 10 years of being open, but now worries that people are going to be afraid of going out shopping.
"Gov. Brown just got rid of any incentive to get a vaccine, since we were all encouraged this spring to get vaccinated so she would get rid of the mask mandate," Gillman said. "We can't afford to go backwards. These restrictions seem like they could go on forever hurting small businesses."
Customer Stuart Allen agreed it was "frustrating that we're having to go backwards." However, he added, "with the increasing variant, it's better safe than sorry."
Natalie Wandschneider and Rowan Wiley said they were both vaccinated but chose to conduct their business downtown wearing masks; they agreed that the choice should remain for maskless shopping.
"If they're unvaxed, it's a good idea, but I don't think vaccinated people should all have to wear them inside," Wiley said.
"It sucks, but it is what is," said Clint McGhee, an employee of Mi Famiglia Wood Oven Pizzeria. "As far as business goes I think that as long as everyone's affected by the mask mandate, people will still go out and I'm hoping it won't affect us too much."
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