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Carrot and stick: Gov. Brown stands firm on masks but says police shouldn’t write tickets

Gov. Kate Brown news conference 71
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks at Wednesday news conference on COVID-19 situation, statewide mask requirement

Urges Oregonians to 'vote with their feet' and frequent safe businesses

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Trying to wield both a carrot and a stick on the touchiest of topics, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday those who disobey the new, statewide requirement for wearing masks in public indoor spaces could face a Class C misdemeanor charge – but also said she is not directing law enforcement to write such tickets.

"This is enforceable by law, at both a business and an individual level," Brown said. "As with all orders I have issued to keep people safe and save Oregon lives, violation of the order can carry a Class C misdemeanor as a penalty."

A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both.

“However, as with all of my orders, I do not want local police issuing tickets,” Brown said. “Instead, I am calling on our businesses to step up and make sure the public and their employees are protected.”

State health officials joined the governor in both praising Oregonians’ actions so far to curb the spread of the virus while expressing serious concern about the surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks, with Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, noting Wednesday’s new cases are a record 281, pushing the total since March close to 9,000, along with 208 deaths.

Brown returned to the enforcement issue later, when a reporter asked whether asking businesses to enforce the mask rule could expose them to lawsuits, at a time where COVID-19 closures and guidelines have already put them on the ropes financially.

“We’re working with businesses before we move to enforcement,” the governor said. “I’m asking all of us to take this face covering requirement very, very seriously, to protect themselves and others.”

Brown noted that more than 20 states have imposed similar face covering requirements, and repeatedly urged Oregonians to “vote with their feet” by frequenting businesses “that are taking extra efforts to ensure their clients and workers are safe.”

The governor noted the exceptions in the order, as masks are not required for children under 12 (though parents are encouraged to assist those 2 and older to help them wear them when possible), as well as at locations where one is eating or drinking,  or for those who are exerting themselves at gyms and the like, as long as six feet of physical distance are maintained.

“We’re also making accommodations for those who have a medical condition that makes wearing a face mask difficult or dangerous to their health,” Brown said.

Asked what a business should do when confronting someone who refuses to wear a mask, she said, “My encouragement to the business owner is to de-escalate the situation. … Businesses run into difficult situations all the time.” She also asked Oregonians “to be respectful of business owners, staff and customers and clients.”

But when she again was asked if businesses should call police, the governor said law enforcement has a number of other, important priorities.

“We are not asking businesses to call the police,” Brown said, urging them to instead call Oregon OSHA for assistance or advice.

Health officials stressed that studies have shown the combination of face coverings and physical distance can have a marked impact on reducing the spread and number of people with COVID-19.

But if the numbers go the wrong way, Brown said rollbacks in reopening are not just possible, but likely, especially if hospitals become overwhelmed with new cases.

“Your favorite store will only be able to stay open if you take precautions,” Brown said, later adding that the same is true for reopening schools.

“Obviously, we’re sending an alarm with a statewide face covering mandate,” Brown said. “If we can’t slow down transmission of the virus, we will need to shut down businesses” again.

“Your actions will determine whether we open schools in the fall,” Brown said.

If covered businesses “ignore the rules,” Brown said, Oregon OSHA and other agencies are ready to follow up on complaints and use “all the tools available” for enforcement.

“I’m very serious about this,” she said. “I also bet that Oregonians are going to want to frequent businesses where they feel safe.”

Brown said Portland advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy has donated their time to create an ad campaign to help educate Oregonians, especially younger people, about the importance of covering their nose and mouth in public spaces, to not spread the virus, even if they are feeling well and showing no symptoms.

And as for the Fourth of July weekend? After a Memorial Day weekend when many traveled far, not heeding the governor’s advice, Brown said, “Unfortunately, the Fourth of July forecast looks fabulous.”

She again urged Oregonians to keep their holiday celebrations local and small.

“Please, please, please keep your backyard barbecues, your picnics down to your family household members,” she said.

If factors such as the rate of positive cases and the amount of community spread continue to increase, putting a burden on hospitals’ capacity, “then we will need to take more drastic actions.”

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.



      1. We have a way to limit the spread so that we can resume normal lives. But instead we are too stubborn.
        To me, I honestly don’t care what Karen Brown says. A mask makes sense, and to me it is a personal choice. I take responsibility for helping us get back to normal. I’d rather do that than contribute to this thing lasting forever. All of this sucks big time. But to go about your life like it isn’t happening isn’t really a viable option, either.

        1. Nothing personal Swedishchef but I quit reading your comment in the second line when it became apparent you don’t even know the name of the Governor. Kind of blows your credibility

          1. LOL. The word “Karen” is a current pop culture reference. Look it up.
            People refer to someone who is bossy and enforcing rules as a “Karen”. So, yah, it’s my feeble attempt at humor. Because sometimes comedy is a way to find common ground on difficult topics. We all like to laugh.

    1. I agree that the restrictions should be scaled to the level of infections so from that perspective we certainly shouldn’t be held to the same level of restrictions as a place like New York. But in the meantime, if you want things to return to normal anytime soon, then taking a small personal precaution of wearing a mask will help to get us headed in the right direction to being back on track or staying as open as possible.

      1. lol ok. This thing doesn’t care about you, or politics, or the economy. It’s a virus, not a political party. It does kill people to the tune of 127,000 Americans and counting. Yes Oregon has been mostly spared so far, but that can change quickly if people keep thinking this is some kind of political communism thing. A couple of simple personal precautions to take some personal responsibility and this s**tty thing will be behind us. Or, we could keep up our stubborn antics and enjoy this alternate universe for another year.

      2. CDC reports mortality rate at .26% but at the same time reports that There are likely 10 times more infection cases than have tested positive. which would make the mortality rate .026%. Since the CDC has fluctuating numbers like the WHO, There is most likely 100 times more cases which would make the rate .0026%. Then you subtract the manipulated numbers and you most likely have a rate of .00026%. mortality rate. Then if you depoliticize the entire issue you end up with an open economy. and Turd Brown can find some other way of dictating from her ivory tower.

  1. Went to 3 businesses today. Hardware store had few people and 100 mask compliance. Grocery store was moderately crowded, only 50-60 % compliance. Went to licquor, an “essential” state run business. 6 other customers. ZERO compliance. Asked the checker if she says anything to customers. Nope. I suspect management doesn’t want to deal with it. Just the same, the chief executive of the state says 100% masks then state run functions had damn well make it happen at their places of business IMO.

        1. I agree with a part of what you said. We should be smart enough to take personal precautions (such as wearing a mask) without being told to do so. If Karen Brown, or government, or Fauci all didn’t exist, but the virus existed, it would still be a common sense simple precaution.
          Instead, we are too busy being petty and political, so we’ve made a simple thing very hard, and it will continue to be hard for longer than it needs to be unless we take some personal responsibility to help each other get through this.

    1. I own a company I do NOT ask employees to enforce mask rules because they may get shot by an AR 15. Scary times for reasonable people.

      1. The weapon is not capable of making its own decision to shoot your employees. It does not know love or hate, only what the carrier operates it to do.

    2. To me, this isn’t about “compliance”. This shouldn’t be about forcing a rule. If there was no government and no Karen Brown, and yet a virus came along that had impact on society and could legitimately kill thousands of people including my parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors, what would I do on a personal level?
      You bet I’d take simple personal precautions like wearing a mask when out in public. Compliance or no compliance. Optional or required. Political parties or no political parties. I’d wear a mask anyway because it just makes sense during a viral respiratory pandemic. I don’t really see how this is so hard to understand that wearing a mask isn’t a compliance thing. It’s a help your fellow Americans get through a health crisis thing so we can all get back to normal life SOONER. The sooner this thing is behind us, the better. To pretend it isn’t here isn’t realistic and will only prolong these stupid f n restrictions. Be a common sense mature adult about it.

  2. So since march there have been 9000 positive tests of which 208 died. Because of the way the story is written we are supposed to assume the other 8792 are still sick or just haven’t died yet. Based on these reported tests that means there is a 99.75% survival rate. Since they have only been testing the worst cases and we know there are 1000’s of folks out there who have had this virus and not been tested for it that survival rate is actually higher and a very high number of the survivors did so without medical treatment. If you can look at it rationally it really isn’t as scary as she wants us to believe.

  3. I’ll probably be accused of being sexist. But is it more than coincidence how these liberal women governors and mayors have been taken advantage of and exposed as to how ineffective they are?

    1. Dude come on. I’m a dad of two daughters and my wife is one of the most capable and intelligent people I know.
      Maybe if that was delivered in the form of a lighthearted joke it might be more consumable, but to state it like that is really an over-generalization.
      I’m not a fan of Kate Brown, either, and I’m not a Democrat, either. But I am guilty of poking fun at her, too. But that is a bit mean spirited towards women in general and really discredits many intelligent women who could easily hold that office and kick ass doing it.

      Where is the eye rolling emoji?

  4. Maybe 10% had masks on in Safeway today, Bimart had a greeter at the door offering masks, maybe 50 % had them on the others not, did not accept the free mask either

  5. On one last note. The mandate is to wear masks in public buildings. Businesses are not public buildings. They are private property that is open to the public with the right to refuse entry by the public at any time along with the right to refuse service. These are not public buildings and they can not be compelled to ask a customer to leave if they do not wish do do so.

    1. On the other hand, I and many others won’t shop where the mandate isn’t enforced. If someone has a safe, well-lit business that’s enjoyable to visit, I will spend my money there. If some place doesn’t care about my safety and the place is dirty, then I wont. See how capitalism works?

    2. Fed UP, ewe need to look more carefully at the gubinators edict.
      “Unless you have a disability or medical condition that makes wearing a face covering unsafe, we are asking you to wear a face covering when you are in public indoor spaces or in places where you can’t keep 6 feet of distance from people outside your household.”
      That is ALL indoor spaces open to the public. Not just public buildings.

  6. not much of a pet owner. the stick it to distance the carrot so the animal cant reach it, not to discipline the animal with

  7. It is interesting how Governor Brown hangs her hat on mask usage but doesn’t use one herself. Also interesting that she is already shifting blame for an increase in cases to Oregon citizens with the threat that she will shutter our “favorite businesses” and keep our children out of school. All in the face of a state that is $10 billion dollars in debt over the next three years, she has already decimated small business in our state, and after the American Academy of Pediatricians has come out with a statement that the risk of our children going back to school is very small compared to the huge deleterious effect of regression in learning, effect of social isolation, and increase in domestic violence since they have been at home

    1. I agree that it would be better if the level of restrictions were scaled with the level of infection. It’s not helpful to have conflicting messages or restrictions that are inconsistent with actual impact.
      We’re fortunate that so far we haven’t been hit as hard as other areas. Regardless of what Karen Brown says or threatens, we can help to make sure the impact stays low by taking simple personal precautions (a mask).
      And, yes, I meant “Karen”.

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