As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, Oregonians are now required to wear face masks outdoors when they are unable to socially distance. But the Eugene Police Department is not actively enforcing this rule.
According to Gov. Kate Brown’s updated policy in mid-July, someone will be warned and possibly fined if they are not wearing a mask. But EPD Chief Chris Skinner said enforcement has been difficult.
“Understand the outdoor mask is only when you can't social distance,” said Skinner. “And so, that's always such a tough one because people have the ability to justify what the social distancing [is] in their own minds, where other people are really nervous about it.”
But Skinner said it's not unusual for local police to take a hands off approach.
“I think it's normal statewide for a police department to not be the front line of enforcing that type of ordinance and law,” said Skinner. “I'm not saying it hasn't happened—but with my colleagues statewide—I don't know of anybody that's actively engaged in that kind of enforcement.”
Skinner said someone should wear a mask if they are indoors and around other people, or if they are outdoors and are unable to socially distance. He also said there is an exception when people are eating at a restaurant, or other instances.
“We've done no enforcement around that,” said Skinner. “We've mostly received complaints and move them to [the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA at the state to do those investigations.”
He also said they are asking the community to “do the right thing [and] wear your mask.”
“Just wear your mask, and then let the police department work on the real issues in this community and not have to do a mask enforcement,” said Skinner.
Gov. Brown’s order also requires everyone ages five and older to wear a mask, even while exercising. COVID-19 precautions also limit indoor social gatherings to no more than 10 people. These limits do not apply to businesses.
Skinner said community members should refer to resources from Lane County Public Health if they need more information about protective mask and face shield requirements.