By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
The governor’s order to wear face coverings inside businesses is not being received well in Prineville.
Some businesses report employees are being yelled at and have had food thrown at them by irate customers who refuse to wear masks.
Several Prineville area businesses are reporting challenges getting customers to wear masks. Apparently, employees are getting yelled at, intimidated and even threatened.
“They are required to make sure everyone has a face mask on. They didn’t develop the rules. They are just following them, same as the health department,” said Vicky Ryan, Crook County Health Department public information officer. “We feel their pain. We’ve been getting a lot of hateful, very disturbing phone calls to the health department blaming us for everything.”
In a story published in the Prineville newspaper, Kim Daniels, executive director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce asked visitors and locals to “not criticize businesses for requiring masks. Be kind,” she wrote. “It’s what they have to do to stay open and resist fines, or even worse, be shut down.”
“People aren’t taking this seriously and there are people dying out here,” said Janey Maken, a caregiver. “I take care of three different people and I wear a mask through all of it because you never know what’s going to happen. A sniffle can turn into the coronavirus so we are very careful with everything we do with our people.”
“I don’t see any point whatsoever in even debating it,” said Cliff Edgington, a Crook County resident as he loaded groceries into his car. “It’s one of the small things we can do to try to contribute to getting rid of this mess.”
Vicky Ryan says some of the complaints received concern visitors who may think because they are on vacation in a rural area they can relax and not worry about the virus.
But she says the doubling of active COVID cases in Crook County the past two weeks means the risk is just as real in Prineville as any major metropolitan area.
“People are getting more anxious and they are getting less tolerant. The community is policing the wearing of face coverings and it’s starting to get maybe out of control,” Ryan said.
In an effort to ease tensions, the Crook County Health Department is making masks and face shields available to any person and business that asks.
Ryan says one way businesses can de-escalate situations is to offer free masks to people who may have forgotten them.