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VERIFY: Answering your Oregon face mask and COVID-19 related questions

The state has announced guidelines for businesses, but people still have a lot of questions about where masks are required.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is requiring face masks statewide starting Wednesday, July 1. The mandate is already in effect in seven counties. 

The state has announced guidelines for businesses, employees, and members of the public but people still have a lot of questions. We verified the following answers:

This story will be updated with additional questions and answers regarding face mask requirements and COVID 19. Have a question? Email us at verify@kgw.com

I have heard a lot of medical experts reporting that although young children are not getting sick as much as older adults, they can still pass the COVID-19 virus on to other people and make them sick. Why then are children under 12 not required to wear face masks under governor brown's face mask mandate? -Kim s.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority said at a news conference while they recommend face masks on kids, they don't require them because "different children have different abilities to wear the mask and wear the mask safely." (Source: Oregon Health Authority)

I heard that COVID cases could be so high due to some people that have been tested more than once or multiple times and not representing one case for every number.  I was wondering if that was true? -Randi

According to the Oregon Health Authority, although some people may be tested several times, their positive diagnosis is only counted as one case. However, if a person gets COVID 19, recovers from it, and tests positive again 90 days later, the new diagnosis would be counted as a new case. (Source: Oregon Health Authority)

I've seen a large number of people, especially store clerks wearing masks only over their mouth by pulling it down from their nose. Please confirm that the nose and mouth should be covered, or they might as well not wear a mask at all! - Jan Wade

According to the CDC, if your mask only covers your mouth, you're wearing it incorrectly. A mask worn only over your mouth puts you at risk of breathing in viral particles and won't contain droplets if you sneeze. If your nose is not covered by a mask, you also risk contamination from the mask itself, which collects germs on its exterior. (Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

We operate a food cart lot. Are face masks [staff in carts, staff doing outside duties, and customers] required on an outdoor food cart lot? -Robert

Employees are required to wear face coverings as they were under previous employer requirements. There is not a requirement for customers to wear face coverings outdoors, but they are strongly recommended, especially if 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. (Source: Gov.Kate Brown's office)

Are face masks going to be required when going into state offices like the Department of Human Services? I am an outside vendor going in to repair equipment and I was told that they (DHS) were not required to wear masks.

Face coverings are required for employees and the public in-state offices that have retail-like operations, such as DMV and DHS field offices. For the specific question about a vendor repairing equipment in an office building, face coverings are strongly recommended.  (Source: Gov. Kate Brown's office)

I saw you on KGW today explaining the face masks, but you did not include churches or houses of worship in that. Could you please let me know if those are required or not? - Rebecca Poole

The new face-covering requirements apply to venues, which in Phase 2 includes indoor events, including faith-based gatherings, so face coverings would be required. For counties still in Phase 1, gatherings are limited to a maximum size of 25, with physical distancing measures in place and face coverings are strongly recommended. (Source: State of Oregon)

When Governor Brown announced the new requirement for face-coverings starting on Wednesday, she said that she will work with businesses to get access to free face coverings. Would you guys know how to get that?  - David at Portland Shoe Repair

Throughout this crisis, the state has distributed surgical masks and respirators to counties as needed for health care workers and other front-line workers. The state is now working with businesses on the distribution of face coverings as necessary.

Businesses with questions about face coverings can call the Small Business Navigator hotline at 833-604-0880 for information on how to purchase masks or face coverings. The staff at the Small Business Navigator will also collect business contact information for future distributions. (Source: State of Oregon)

Does this order apply to multi-story apartment buildings? Residents change floors almost exclusively by elevators which are very tight indoor "public" shared spaces. Are face masks required in this type of situation?- Doug Hyde

The guidance applies to businesses, so face coverings would not be required in apartment buildings. Though, of course, the use of face coverings is being encouraged, especially in settings where six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. (Source: State of Oregon)

Can a person still get unemployment if they are employed at a business that is not enforcing wearing a mask indoors and they are afraid to go to work?

Yes, an employee may still be eligible for unemployment benefits as long as they take some additional steps before quitting or being terminated for not showing up to work.

The Oregon Employment Dept has historically viewed situations in which an employee quits (constructive discharge) very strictly, and if the employment department ultimately concludes the employee "voluntarily left work without good cause," they will be denied benefits. In assessing whether the person in this scenario quit with "good cause," the employment department would likely ask the claimant questions targeted at discerning whether there were objectively reasonable alternatives the claimant could have taken before quitting, such as:

  • Did the claimant report to the employer that he or she believed enforcing mask use was required by the government directive? If so, what was the employer's response?
  • Did the claimant report the employer's failure to enforce mask used to the Oregon OSHA or any other governmental authority?

Should the employee sufficiently explain to the employment department that there were no other reasonable alternatives to quitting, the employee would then likely be granted benefits, assuming there were no other eligibility issues. Any employee in this position should be prepared to appeal a denial of an initial petition for benefits and request a hearing. (Source: Joseph Haddad, JJH Law in Portland)

Note: The Oregon Employment Department employer pandemic-related FAQs acknowledge that employees may still eligible for benefits in the event the employee has been asked to work when it would require them to be in violation of a government directive.

Have a question? Email us at verify@kgw.com.

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