Earlier this week, Oregon implemented a new mask mandate that’s a wee bit stiffer than what we had before. In addition to donning face coverings for indoor public spaces, you’re now required to mask up in outdoor settings where you can’t maintain six feet of physical distance.
I should note that Bend’s City Council just voted to reinstate the lodging advisory restricting non-essential travel to Bend, so this post is aimed mostly at locals, as visitors are urged to hold off on leisure travel for now.
With that out of the way, what’s the etiquette for mask use in Bend? And what’s the skinny on masking up in general? Here’s everything you need to know about face coverings as of July 16, 2020.
What’s up with the new mask rule?
For the first couple months of the pandemic, Central Oregonians kicked serious butt on flattening the curve. Our cases stayed low, and folks looked out for one another by keeping their distance, washing their hands, and voluntarily wearing masks.
But cases have climbed in recent weeks, and Central Oregon marked its first couple deaths due to COVID-19. While Bend’s restaurants and shops mostly do a fab job with masking up and asking customers to do the same, there are still outdoor spaces like bar patios, packed parks, and narrow trails where it’s tough to stay six feet from strangers.
Enter the new mask rule.
As of July 15, you need to wear a face covering if you’re outside and less than six feet from folks who don’t live with you. The existing rule requiring masks in indoor public spaces is still in effect, and Oregon’s also now restricting indoor gatherings of more than 10 people (excluding spaces like restaurants and bars).
Got it? Good. Now bust out that mask and let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
What’s the etiquette for masking up?
In shops across Bend, the rules are pretty simple: Before you walk through the door, don your face covering and keep it on the entire time you’re inside. If shop staff asks you to wait outside because they’re already at capacity for the number of shoppers they can safely accommodate, just chill outside and pat yourself on the back for contributing to the safety of your fellow citizens.
It’s a bit trickier with dining out, since it’s tough to eat your body weight in tater tots with fabric blocking your pie hole. The general rule of thumb is to wear a mask en route from the front door to your table. Ditto that for jaunts to the restroom or anytime you need to move through the dining area. While it’s tempting to remove the mask once you’re seated, I’ve recently learned how much servers appreciate when customers continue covering their faces anytime waitstaff approaches. Makes sense, since they’re the ones taking the risk of serving dozens of customers a day. The least we can do is help protect them.
Once your food and drinks arrive, it’s fine to whip off that mask to chow down. When your server returns to check in, cover your mouth and nose again for those few seconds it takes to say “this is the best meal of my life, and I appreciate how hard you’re working in the midst of a freakin’ pandemic.”
Once your server leaves, feel free to resume mask-free eating until it’s time to cover up again and leave the restaurant (after leaving a generous tip, of course).
What about outdoor recreation? While it’s way easier to keep six feet of distance in Central Oregon’s wide open spaces, there are trails and parks where you’re bound to pass strangers in closer proximity than is currently safe. Keep that mask handy and whip that bad boy on when someone approaches. Our VP of Marketing wears a neck buff when cycling so he can quickly pull it up over his nose and mouth when encountering someone on the trail.
Bottom line: Assume you are an asymptomatic carrier and that the stranger approaching is a vulnerable person with an immune disorder or an at-risk child. I’ve found that makes it a whole lot easier to err on the side of protecting everyone I meet while out exploring Bend.
Why should I follow the rules?
I’m not sure how the mask thing became political, but I suspect zombies are involved. Maybe murder hornets.
Wearing a mask isn’t about being fearful or paranoid or wanting to look like a bank robber.
Okay, maybe it’s a little about wanting to look like a bank robber.
Wearing a mask is about protecting other people. It’s knowing you might be an asymptomatic carrier walking through the grocery store beside someone who cares for an elderly relative. It’s about deciding to be a decent human who doesn’t smear invisible germs on that minimum wage waitress with a kid at home battling cancer.
Remember quarantine? Stay-at-home orders? Those sucked, right?
Not nearly as much as choking to death on a ventilator, but sheltering in place is no fun. Let’s work together to avoid being sent back there, K?
Are there upsides to wearing a mask?
There are perks to mask wearing that go beyond…yanno, not making people sick.
No one can see if you have spinach in your teeth. There’s no need to apply lipstick, since your smacker isn’t visible.
If you spot someone you know and aren’t in the mood to chat, you can both pretend you didn’t recognize each other, because hey, half your face is covered.
If you do feel like chatting, it’s a fun conversation starter to compliment someone’s mask and ask where they got it. It’s also kinda fun to treat the mask as a fashion accessory and match it to your outfit. If you need to replenish your mask stash, here’s a great roundup of local businesses making and /or selling them.
And for any woman tired of strange men urging her to smile, problem solved! Now there’s a perk we never expected.
A word about discomfort…
Those phony medical cards floating around claiming there’s a medical exemption for mask wearing? That’s not a thing, and there’s no ADA rule that’ll get you out of wearing one. If you turn up at the Bend Visitor Center with one of those fake medical cards, we’ll point you the other direction real quick.
That said, I get it. Masks are a bummer. They’re hot and itchy and uncomfortable.
As someone prone to anxiety who has experienced a handful of very scary panic attacks, I absolutely understand the terror of feeling like you can’t breathe (ask me about the time I almost drowned having a panic attack through a snorkel in Fiji. Good times).
A few weeks ago while hiking Pilot Butte on a hot and crowded day, I masked up to be safe. Halfway to the top, I felt that terrifying shortness of breath and the mounting fear that I might not be able to breathe. I stopped walking. I reminded myself it was all in my head. I closed my eyes and focused on my other senses while breathing slowly, consciously, in for a count of four; hold for one second; and out for four. Was it fun? Nope, not one bit. But it was a good reminder that I’m capable of making adjustments in my own behavior to help curb the spread of this pain-in-the-butt virus.
I’ve also learned that spritzing my mask with lavender essential oil or some other calming fragrance can make the experience more pleasant. I’ve learned that wedging the nose piece on my glasses over the top of the mask helps reduce fogging.
I’ve learned that masks looping over my ears are easier to don quickly than the ones that tie behind my head, and that they all fit better when I wear my hair tied back.
This is a learning experience for all of us, and again, it doesn’t feel awesome.
But knowing we’re doing our part to protect our fellow citizens and slow the spread of COVID-19? That feels all right.
Stay safe out there, guys, and I’ll see you on the trails (masked up, of course).