An Oregon county has decided to make people of color exempt from its mandatory mask policy, citing the potential for racial profiling. The decision comes as multiple counties in Oregon have ramped up face-covering requirements to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Lincoln County's general directive requires everyone to wear a face-covering in any indoor public setting, or any outdoor setting where six feet of social distancing can't be maintained. But the county wrote on its website that "People of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public" are exempt from the rule.
Other exemptions include children under the age of 12 and people with particular medical conditions or disabilities.
The directive notes that it's "self-executing," and that no one should "intimidate or harass" those who don't comply.
In Multnomah County to the north, there isn't an exception for people of color — but the county does point out the possibility of racial profiling, according to CBS affiliate KOIN.
"Violence and discrimination are a daily experience for people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color," the county said on its website, according to KOIN. "Racism and racist reactions to Black, indigenous, and people of color wearing face coverings is a reality. And yet we know face coverings can help people stay healthy and save lives. Multnomah County does not tolerate discrimination or violence toward individuals because of their race, ethnicity or identity."
According to census data, Lincoln County is more than 80% white.
Face coverings will be required when visiting businesses in seven Oregon counties starting Wednesday. There are more than 7,400 virus cases in the state, and 195 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the state's department of health.
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