WESTERN TREASURE VALLEY — With Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mandate for people to wear face coverings in indoor public places taking effect on Wednesday, The Argus Observer checked in with local businesses to see how they will be handling the mandate, and whether they plan to refuse service to customers who aren’t wearing masks.
The face-covering mandate, aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, does have exceptions, including for those who are under the age of 12, disabled, or have medical conditions. There also are exceptions for instances when masks are not practical but when appropriate physical distancing can be met, such as while working out at fitness facilities, eating or drinking, or performing (such as singing or playing an instrument).
According to guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, businesses requiring customers to wear masks, must have signs clearly posted. In those cases, if a customer does not have a mask, they can be politely asked whether they have a medical condition or disability. However, if they answer yes, it is not OK to require them to provide proof. If they answer no, they can be offered a face covering, provided alternative shopping options or be asked to come back later with a face covering. Additionally, OHA warns that it may be illegal to refuse service to someone not wearing a face covering, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Following are responses from a sampling of businesses throughout the area.
Checking in with Ontario’s marijuana dispensaries, the Argus was only able to get comment from the management of Top Crop.
Austin Chadderdon, a member of the management team, took the time to address Gov Brown’s mandate in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon, the day before the mandate was to take effect. When asked whether Top Crop will require customers to wear masks at their store, Chadderdon said yes.
“And we have masks to supply customers. We stocked up on a bunch of them. We are pretty well prepared for that,” he said.
Previous to July 1, face coverings were not required for patrons of restaurants and bars, but that has now changed. Although face coverings will not be required while eating or drinking, there is plenty of waiting that happens at those spaces. As such, during that time citizens are expected to cover their face, according to the new guidance.
Jason Jungling, owner of the Plaza Inn in Ontario, said he is undecided on how to handle the masks requirement for his customers. With customers from both Oregon and Idaho, he said he is unsure about how to educate them on the requirement. He was told that by 8 a.m. Wednesday there was only one customer wearing a mask.
At most grocery stores throughout Malheur County, signs are posted stating that masks are required.
The same holds true at Red Apple Marketplace in Ontario. Co-owner Kimmie Serrano is relying on customers to enforce the mask requirement for themselves.
“To help keep our employees and customers safe, we request all our customers wear masks while shopping in our store – or alternatively use our call in order services for pickup or delivery,” said Serrano. “To protect our employees and minimize the risk of disputes with customers, we uphold the mandate through door signage and in-store radio as well as the ongoing execution of additional protection measures, like protective partitions at every check lane, extensive use of UVC lights for sanitation and disinfection and floor decals to further promote physical distancing.”
Serrano also pointed out guidance which says stores’ measures should not go to extremes.
“The state makes it clear that under no circumstances should a business try to physically block a person from entering. Health officials stress not to “mask shame” people, do not engage with them or call police. Therefore, our doors are open for business.”
Pete Peña, manager of M & W Market in Nyssa, said signs are posted at the store entrance explaining the requirement to wear masks, but added that customers will be given a grace period, and that masks will be available at the store for those who forget them.
At Kinney & Keele True Value in Ontario, customers will see a table inside that has masks on it for those who need one, as well as information about the new state mandate.
As far as whether they will require masks or refuse service, they plan to “play it by ear to see what happens,” said Mara Slinker Garcia, co-owner of Kinney & Keele True Value, during a phone interview on Tuesday.
The face-covering mandate is not just to protect Kinney & Keeele customers, she said, but to also protect the employees working so they don’t infect their family members at home.
At Dentinger Feed and Seed in Vale, a representative of the family owned business says masks are not required for customers, but they have posted guidance signs from OHA about the mandate.
“We’ve been trying to take this seriously all along,” he said, adding that he believes a lot of customers have been, too.
Corey Evan, Griffin Hewitt and Larry Meyer contributed to this article.