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Outdoor mask rules, recommendations, and realities on a holiday weekend

It's Labor Day weekend, and a lot of people have been getting out to enjoy it. But how close is too close for comfort, outside without a mask?

PORTLAND, Oregon — Labor Day weekend is the last big weekend of summer and the living was easy on Northwest 23rd Avenue in Portland. With all the shops and restaurants, the area gets a lot of foot traffic. Businesses had the mask requirements posted to make patrons aware before they came inside, however, on the sidewalk, the masking and social distancing situation are less clear.

“I think it's a little bit nebulous to stay 6 feet away, but how can you stay 6 feet away sometimes," said Angela Carlson.

Angela and husband Marlan, both professors in the music department at Oregon State University, are up from Corvallis to visit family. They understand Oregon has an outdoor mask mandate for crowded public places. But does sidewalk traffic fit the bill?  

Marlan thinks not.

“I would put a mask on if I'm in a group of people that's stationary, same people, we will put a mask on. But if people are moving and it's outside I don't see a big need,” said Marlan.

RELATED: Outdoor mask mandate now in effect across Oregon

You could say Oregon's outdoor mask mandate is open to some interpretation. KGW hasn't heard of any enforcement or fines.

So some don't wear masks outside, some like the Carlsons have them handy. And others, like California visitor Jazzie Wynn, wear them all the time.

“Just as a person and as a responsible citizen and a person who really cares, I've just always worn a mask," said Wynn. "So even if they change the mandate or say we do or don't have to wear a mask, I'm likely going to do it because we don't know, with this disease it's really unpredictable.”

We also visited Vancouver, where the waterfront is busy with people.

Unlike Oregon, Washington does not have an outdoor mask mandate, however, health officials do highly recommend that people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings.

Here, there were fewer people wearing masks but also a little more room to spread out. One group of young people had theirs on, to be safe.

“I think I'm still concerned but as long as I'm wearing a mask and I'm vaccinated I feel somewhat confident to be outside,” said Kendall Nishini, visiting from Seattle.

RELATED: Washington health officials deliver update on state's response to COVID-19 pandemic

We also talked to two women at the waterfront.  Claire Smith was with daughter Christine Lucken for Christine’s birthday lunch. They said they are comfortable without masks in this outdoor setting, but they say yes to masks for bigger crowds.

“Concerts or anything like that, would totally wear a mask; we're sensible, just to be safe,” said Lucken.

As for Oregon’s mandate, Smith said, “It seems to me if people keep their safe distance like it’s recommended, I just think it’s a little over the top. I’ve been vaccinated and she’s been vaccinated so we feel a little higher comfort.”  

“I agree with my mom,” said Lucken.  “I think more people need to be vaccinated, it's so important, I think that's the key and the cure.”