Editorial: Businesses need greater support from state, county in COVID-19 fight

Acquire DigitalNews

July 5, 2020

By The Oregonian Editorial Board

State and local officials are wisely counseling Oregonians not to call 911 on people who refuse to abide by Gov. Kate Brown’s statewide mask mandate. As concerned as people may be over the potential spread of coronavirus, asking police to confront those who won’t wear one is a misuse of law enforcement.

So instead, officials are largely putting the onus on businesses to ensure customers are wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces, such as grocery stores – even, paradoxically, if that means calling law enforcement to remove those who refuse to comply or leave the premises. In fact, businesses who fail to adequately police their customers could face fines from Oregon Occupational Safety and Health.

It’s certainly logical to ask businesses to take a strong stand in requiring customers to wear masks as a condition of providing service. Many have similar policies already in place. And businesses have a clear stake in promoting a safe and healthy environment for both employees and customers.

But with the governor emphasizing voluntary compliance by individuals and Multnomah County health officials actively encouraging people to call OSHA on businesses that fall short in policing customers, the double standard of government officials tasking businesses – under threat of fines – to enforce a government mandate is hard to ignore.

The mask mandate comes on top of many other requirements that business are struggling to comply with as they try to stay open amid unprecedented challenges. From restaurants that must reduce seating for customers to hair stylists taking clients’ temperature, business owners are navigating a thicket of health, safety and economic hurdles in which the rules, best practices and expectations keep changing. But even as the risks and responsibilities of taming this public health threat increasingly fall on businesses, the state has so far failed to adequately recognize that. Despite pleas from businesses ­– as well as local governments and school districts – that the Legislature enact liability protections for entities complying with state laws and guidelines, lawmakers authorized only a working group to study the issue…

Read the full article on OregonLive.com.