With the number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon reaching new heights last week and masks being required indoors statewide, some local residents say they have been treated differently for wearing a mask.
Gov. Kate Brown announced that all Oregon residents will be required to wear masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces starting July 1 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Over the last month, we have seen the disease spread at an alarming rate in both urban and rural counties,” Brown said.
Grant County residents Dean Reynolds and Helen Myrick said before the mask-mandate went into effect that masks were very important for them because of vulnerabilities, but some people have reacted when they wear masks.
Myrick said that she has hypogammaglobulinemia, a rare blood disorder, which puts her in a vulnerable situation and makes recovery a taxing process.
“When I get sick, without infusing plasma donated by other people with the antibodies for the illness, it takes me months to recover,” Myrick said. “What can be a normal illness for other people can debilitate me for months.”
Myrick said other people assume she looks well because the illness is not physically visible, but the public is unaware of her circumstances or the situations of others.
She said that both she and Reynolds cannot take the risk of possible exposure.
“We can’t assume somebody’s circumstances,” Myrick said. “It seems that some of the people that are not in an at-risk group might be skeptical of vulnerable people that are wearing a mask and look at them differently, but they don’t know that person’s challenges or who they’re going to... I wear a mask for my husband too.”
Myrick said, if others choose to not wear a mask, she acknowledges that it’s their choice, but would like the same respect in her decision to have a mask on.
Myrick said she has received comments from the public regarding her mask. In one experience, Myrick said somebody told her, “Excuse me, nurse,” and said they needed her help. She said the people were probably joking and trying to be friendly, but because she does not know them, she was unaware of their intentions.
She said she hopes people would be a bit more understanding of a person’s decision to wear a mask and their choice to socially distance themselves from others.
“We don’t understand why this should be so controversial towards the people that do choose to wear masks,” Myrick said.
Reynolds said, although younger people have a lower chance of dying from COVID-19, they can be carriers of the virus to vulnerable people.
“I hope to see the overall population, younger people as well as older people, to be proactive and participate in the health care for all of us,” Reynolds said. “It seems like one of the few things we can do to help each other.”