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Lincoln County drops mask exemption for people of color amid sharp criticism

Donated cloth masks 49

Officials say effort to reduce harassment has instead fueled concerns

NEWPORT, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After a storm of criticism, Lincoln County officials on Wednesday agreed to drop an exemption that allowed people of color to not wear masks, if they were concerned about racial profiling.

County officials said in a statement issued Wednesday evening they revised the policy to address concerns raised from both sides of the issue. It was one of the first counties in the country to exempt people of color from wearing masks to prevent racial profiling.

Oregon Health Aurhority guidance says businesses should take into account that requiring people to wear face coverings impacts everyone differently, including people of color who could have more concerns about racial profiling.

In the statement, county officials noted the recently approved public health face covering directive had several exemptions, including people with health or medical conditions that preclude or are worsened by wearing a vace covering and "people of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment due to wearing face coverings in public."

"We are shocked and appalled at the volume of horrifically racist commentary we have received regarding this policy exception," the statement said. "The vitriol that county leadership, staff and community partners have been subjected to is unprecedented."

"The expressions of racism regarding the exception has created a ripple of fear throughout our communities of color. The very policy meant to protect them is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment."

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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