While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is strongly suggesting everyone wear a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, one county in Oregon is giving a total pass to people of color.
According to health officials in Lincoln County, Oregon, people of color do not have to wear a mask if they have “heightened concerns about racial profiling and harassment” and “no person shall intimidate or harass people who do not comply.”
It’s important to note, however, that Lincoln County is home to some 50,000 people where nearly 90 percent white and just 0.9 percent of a Black/African American population according to 2019 Census data. They also have a number of Native Americans and a growing Latinx population.
Not covering your face due to fear of violence and police harassment is a serious reality considering Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police, as reported by a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Back on April 5, Aaron Thomas, a Black man who lives in Columbus, Ohio wrote for the Boston Globe, “I will not be covering my face until I am able to obtain a face mask that is unmistakable for what it is. Let me be clear: This is not because I do not trust the advice of the CDC — I do. I believe in science, and I have followed all of its guidelines up to this point. I know masks work, and I trust the CDC’s recommendation. What I do not trust is the innate biases and lack of critical thought about the implications of these decisions.”
Additionally, a March 18 video from Jermon Best and Diangelo Jackson showed the two wearing medical masks at a Woodriver, Illinois Walmart. They claim they were followed by police.
See the video below:
Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation as African Americans were known to have been affected at disproportionately higher infection and fatality numbers than white people. Not wearing a mask puts Black people in Lincoln at risk, but wearing masks could equally do the same.
For the latest on the coronavirus, check out BET’s blog on the virus, and contact your local health department or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Photo Credit: Robin Gentry / EyeEm