“The expressions of racism regarding the exception has created a ripple of fear throughout our communities of color. The very policy meant to protect them, is now making them a target for further discrimination and harassment,” Lincoln County leaders said Wednesday.
The county requires most residents to wear face coverings in public settings, indoors or outdoors. The locale, which is overwhelmingly White, had been one of the first places in the United States to exempt non-White residents if they fear harassment.
Also exempt are people with disabilities or medical conditions whose breathing would be obstructed by a mask and children under 12, though children ages 2 through 12 are still encouraged to cover their faces.
But following the announcement, county leaders received unprecedented vitriol and “horrifically racist commentary” that turned the policy into one that makes people of color more of a target for harassment and discrimination, the statement said.
Lincoln County, home to nearly 50,000 residents, is almost 90% White and less than 1% Black, census data shows. But it’s also home to the Siletz Reservation and a growing population of Latino residents.