UNION COUNTY — Parents in Union County have mixed feelings about the new mask mandate Gov. Kate Brown handed down Wednesday, July 22, which requires children age 5 and older to wear a mask while indoors in public. Some see the directive as excessive and difficult to enforce, while others see no issues with the decision.

Khirenda Johnson of Elgin is a parent of four children: an 8-month-old, a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old. Johnson is homeschooling her two eldest children for the school year because she saw the difficulty they had with masks, even without a school setting.

“My almost 6-year-old won’t keep the mask on, plays with it while it is on his face, touches his face more, and is overall distracted by the mask,” Johnson said. “My third grader has anxiety whenever anything is on his face, so that’s a strong no for me as well.”

Michele Sandgren, another Elgin parent, said she thought the requirement for children to wear masks is ridiculous and also plans to homeschool her 9-year-old daughter.

“I would rather not homeschool but I am more than capable,” Sandgren said. “Rather than expose my daughter to all of the winter viruses like cold and flu and we now have the lovely COVID-19 to contend with, I can keep her home.”

However, not all parents see an issue with the mandate. Alexia Briggs, who runs Sweet Pea Daycare, La Grande, has two children, 4 and 8, who happily wear masks.

“They both see it as fun with designs that appeal to them but then again they’re not out in public a lot,” Briggs said.

La Grande resident Nancy Arceo-Davila said her son, 4, and daughter, 15, are happy to wear the masks. When her son goes with her and her daughter to the store, he watches them put on their masks and points to his mouth to indicate he is waiting for his, Arceo-Davila said.

“He knows not to take it off and won’t touch it,” Arceo-Davila said. “As soon as we leave the store and take our mask off, he follows what we are doing. He doesn’t hesitate, its like it is not even there. He is such a trooper.”

Arceo-Davila said talking to her eldest about the mask has helped with the transition. She said having a positive attitude toward wearing masks and discussing the importance of the mask helps children understand why they have to wear them, even if it is uncomfortable at first.

“I think that everyone is different and not all children are the same, some will do great and others won’t,” Arceo-Davila said. “And for the children who don’t do so well with the mask I would hope that parents would look at other alternatives that may provide some protection.”

Arceo-Davila said her daughter considers wearing a mask to be essential when leaving the house. She said her daughter mentioned one night at dinner that people can’t leave the house without their phone and keys, and now a mask is part of that list of items.

Day care providers may struggle

Painted Panda Daycare provider Trisha Ingram said if her day care in La Grande has to follow the mandate, it could cause serious problems. Some of the children Ingram supervises have sensory problems and a mask would be overwhelming for them. Other children, she said, may struggle with a dramatic change in their routine.

“I have complied with all the new rules and regulations, have stayed away from friends and activities I enjoy,” Ingram said. “I agreed to do the emergency day care needed to support essential workers, which raised the risk to my own family. But I felt it was my obligation to keep the children in my day care to as much of a routine as possible. I have been open for 19 years and this rule might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Ingram said the mandate at her day care also would cause issues at home.

“I have children at my day care 11 to 12 hours a day, sometimes the same children are here for the whole 12 hours,” Ingram said. “My whole family would have to wear masks in their own home for most of the time they are home, and all three wear masks all day and evenings at their own jobs already.”

Briggs said mandating masks seems like a reasonable request for adults, but she isn’t so sure it is reasonable for children. As a home day care owner, Briggs said she does not believe the mandate will affect her business drastically. She said if her day care has to comply with those older than 5 years old, she has some concerns.

“The struggle will be losing the connection for children that my home is their home away from home,” Briggs said. “I take care of children from a few months old to 8 years old currently. A majority of my children are luckily under the age of 5 years. But I see that in itself being an issue as some children would feel like they’re being singled out.”

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