Lincoln County, Oregon requires most residents to wear face covers in public places, indoors or outdoors. The overwhelmingly white county will not require non-white residents to use them if they fear bullying, the county said this month.
It is one of the first counties in the United States to exempt people of color from wearing masks to avoid racial profiling.
People with disabilities or medical conditions whose breathing would be obstructed by a mask and children under the age of 12 are also exempt, although children ages 2 to 12 are encouraged to cover their faces.
Lincoln County, home to nearly 50,000 residents, is nearly 90% white and less than 1% black, according to census data. But it is also home to the Siletz Reserve and a growing population of Latino residents.
The county directive differs from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s mask guide, which requires residents of seven counties to wear masks in indoor public spaces without exemptions for people of color.
When the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). USA They recommended in April that all Americans wear masks in public, many blacks and Latin Americans were not comfortable following their advice. In their cases, wearing a mask could make others perceive them as criminals, activists and educators told CNN in April.
“Is [wearing a mask] It seems like a reasonable answer unless you just wipe out American society, “Trevor Logan, professor of economics at Ohio State University and a black man, told CNN.” When you can’t do that, you’re basically saying people look dangerous given the racial stereotypes that exist. ”
It’s a “lose-lose” scenario, ReNika Moore of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program told CNN in April, because either way, African Americans feel in danger.
And they have borne the brunt of the coronavirus. Initial data shows that black Americans are dying at disproportionately higher rates than other ethnicities. The American Public Media Research Lab estimated that the Covid-19 death rate for African Americans is 2.3 times higher than the rate for white and Asian Americans.
The CDC’s advice came almost two months before protests erupted in the United States after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police, although many protesters have worn masks while protesting.