Oregon county to revise mask exemption for people of color due to ‘horrifically racist’ backlash

One Oregon county has exempted people of color from its face covering mandate due to heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment, according to a statement posted to Lincoln County's website.

The announcement, made on June 17, was met with “horrifically racist commentary,” according to the statement. A higher than normal volume of calls have since been made to county municipalities, causing more harm than good, according to the county.

“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 statement read.

“After last month’s protests, the national attention given to issues of racism, police tactics and inequality, 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 statement continued.

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“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 the community partners, have been subjected to is unprecedented. All this only a month after George Floyd’s death.”

The statement went on to note that the county has even received “racist calls” from outside the state.

“While shocking, it did not surprise us,” it read.

It was also highlighted that leaders who represent communities of people of color called the county and asked for the new mask policy to be changed since it was causing them to be targets rather than providing them with more protection.

“To address those concerns, we are revising our public health directive and face covering policies,” according to the statement. “It saddens us greatly that we need to do that. We will not continue a directive and policies that were intended to assist but instead are a potential source of harm for those we are sworn to protect.”

The statement went on to express the frustration felt throughout the entire country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep through the states with cases and deaths on the rise.

“Wear your face covering, be kind to each other. End racism now,” the statement concluded.

A COVID-19 resurgence is wiping out two months of progress in the U.S. and sending infections to dire new levels across the South and West, with hospital administrators and health experts warning Wednesday that politicians and a tired-of-being-cooped-up public are letting a disaster unfold.

The U.S. recorded a one-day total of 34,700 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest level since late April, when the number peaked at 36,400, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Scientists continue to recommend the general public use cloth masks, after they better understood that people with no symptoms could be spreading the virus — even though they don't offer as much protection as the sophisticated masks reserved for health workers and aren't a substitute for staying 6 feet away from other people.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday that the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down a disturbing COVID-19 surge — issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks just hours before mask-shunning President Donald Trump was set to address a crowd of his young supporters at an indoor venue in one virus hot spot.

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Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down virus testing, in contrast to Trump’s claim last weekend that he had ordered fewer tests be performed because they were uncovering too many infections. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he wasn't kidding when he made that remark.

“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, pledged to a House committee conducting oversight of the Trump administration's response to the pandemic.

Fauci told lawmakers he understands the pent-up desire to get back to normal as the U.S. begins emerging from months of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But that has “to be a gradual step-by-step process and not throwing caution to the wind,” he said.

“Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.