While masks have been encouraged by public health experts at organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are now mandatory in Oregon.

Local business owners say some people have given them trouble over their request to mask up, but most customers have been understanding.

When announcing her requirement that Oregonians mask up while in indoor public spaces, such as grocery stores, laundromats and workplaces, Gov. Kate Brown said enforcement would be through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Oregon Liquor Control Commission, with penalties for businesses that don’t comply.

“For businesses that refuse to comply, OSHA and OLCC staff are empowered to take administrative action, including issuing citations, fines, and Red Warning Notices if necessary,” she stated.

A Red Warning Notice can cause a business to be closed until the “hazardous condition” identified by OSHA — in this case, a lack of masks helping protect employees and customers from COVID-19 — is resolved.

Jessica Narain, manager of the Hermiston Denny’s and the Best Western hotel next door, said someone from the OLCC did visit Denny’s on July 3 to check if the restaurant was in compliance. She said the inspector sat at a table and observed for a while, and was “satisfied with our new procedures at work.”

She said so far they have only had a small handful of issues with guests who didn’t want to wear a mask when asked to do so. She said those who say they have a medical condition that makes it too difficult to wear a mask are asked to briefly hold a napkin over their mouth as they pass by others’ tables on the way to their own.

“People understand and they get it,” she said.

Krystal Dunagan, store manager of Rue 21 in Hermiston, said in response to a Facebook post by the Hermiston Herald about the mask requirement that a few people didn’t want to wear a mask out of principle, but she was also seeing some customers say they simply didn’t own a mask. She said she gave out the ones she had on hand and had requested more.

“I highly believe if there is a way we can get more masks to more people at a very low cost it could possibly increase usage,” she said.

Judy Gormley of Neighborhood Books and Gifts in Hermiston said they were closed for the Fourth of July weekend and so weren’t inspected, but they have given out masks to a few customers who said they forgot to bring one.

While the masking requirement is new for some businesses, hair and nail salons have been operating with all customers and employees in masks since they were first allowed to reopen.

Sherry Kowalski-Schlink, salon coordinator for the Main Stylin’ Nook, said the rule there is “No mask, no service.”

She said people “grumble a bit” but most people are OK with it.

Customers are reminded of the mask requirement when they receive a reminder of their appointment 24 hours in advance, and she said while they do have some masks available for customers, most bring their own.

On July 7, Morrow County Emergency Management sent out a statement strongly encouraging residents of the county to be diligent about wearing a mask while around people outside of their household.

The statement noted that Morrow County was among those placed on the state’s watchlist of counties that may have to revert back to Phase 1 of reopening if their rising COVID-19 case numbers do not slow down.

“If our numbers are not reduced, are our schools going to open this fall?” the county department’s statement asked.

“If they do open for schooling, are we going to have any fall sports? What about those small businesses that make rural Oregon so great? Will they be able to endure more restrictions? Some have already had to close; many more might close for good. Those are all someone’s dreams lost.”

The department stated that everyone’s personal actions during the pandemic have direct impact on others, and called wearing a mask a simple way to help others and “the least we could all do.”

“While we do not know what the situation will be with our schools this fall, we do know, if our numbers continue to climb, it will not be school as usual,” the statement read, concluding, “We all want our normal lives back, let’s work to get there.”

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