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As indoor mask recommendations return in NW, Central Oregonians react to possibility

(Update: Adding video, comments)

'We do our best to follow what the state requires, whether we like it or not.'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The year-plus mask mandate for public indoor spaces in Oregon was lifted by Gov. Kate Brown back at the end of June, when vaccinations reached 70% of adults. But now, some areas across the Northwest are returning to indoor-mask recommendations, due to a rise in Delta variant cases -- and High Desert residents and businesses are watching.

Health officials in Multnomah County, Oregon's most populous, said Monday they strongly recommend that people wear masks in all indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccine status.

County officials said in a news release that the advisory was issued in response to COVID-19 cases increasing, largely because of the highly-contagious delta variant.

Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey said action is needed to prevent an exponential rise in cases, especially in pockets with low vaccination rates.

She says masking is a step everyone can take now to protect children, others who cannot get the vaccine and to keep businesses open and move ahead with plans for the school year.

But a return to mask guidelines could put Central Oregonians like Jason Camberg, co-owner of the Point Pub and Grill in downtown Bend, in a tough spot.

"It's going to hurt businesses, if we have to start policing people again," Camberg said Monday. "I don't think it should be our responsibility to police people in that manner."

Camberg says some people are still using masks inside the restaurant, but he feels like there's been somewhat of a return to normalcy.

"We still have people that choose to wear masks, which is great that they want to," Camberg said. "But we have seen things kind of trend back to normal." 

Camberg says even if Deschutes County were to be part of a new mask mandate, he thinks many people would just refuse to listen.

"We do our best to follow what the state requires, whether we like it or not," Camberg said. "But I know a lot of businesses even before were going against it, and I think if it happens again, we're going to see a lot more of that."

And others NewsChannel 21 spoke to, like Bend residents Nina Fleck and Lili Jameson, are feeling the fatigue, if asked to wear masks again.

"I would be annoyed," Fleck said.

Fleck and Jameson are both vaccinated, so they say they don't see the point in ramping up masks again.

"I mean, I already have the protection if I'm vaccinated, so there really would be no point," Jameson said.

And Fleck thinks it's taking two steps back while trying to take a step forward.

"If you're vaccinated and you have to wear a mask indoors, that would be backtracking. because you're already protected," Fleck said. "And if you don't wear a mask and you're unvaccinated, then that's your problem."

Meanwhile, health officials in more than a half-dozen Washington counties also are recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccine status, because of the rise in COVID-19 cases and the highly contagious delta variant.

Public Health Seattle & King County officials said Monday that local health officers from around the Puget Sound region joined together in the recommendation after King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin issued such guidance on Friday.

Officials in Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan and Grays Harbor counties are included. Skagit County Health Officer Howard Leibrand separately made that recommendation Monday, as did officials in Multnomah County, Oregon.

Washington state health officials say they support the local efforts.

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

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