La Grande police on Sunday, July 26, responded to Bi-Mart to trespass a customer who refused to wear a mask. According to the local law enforcement daily bulletin, the customer decided to wear a mask and shop once the officer showed up.
Over in Enterprise, a Wallowa County sheriff’s deputy on Friday, July 24, cited a woman for trespassing at the Ace Hardware after she refused to wear a mask and refused to leave because she would not wear a mask.
Gov. Kate Brown handed down the requirement for anyone 5 and older to wear masks in public spaces. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the job of enforcing Brown’s orders to combat the spread of the virus. OSHA’s lever is fines and penalties against businesses that don’t comply. Thus business owners, managers and employees have the onus of having to enforce a mandate that came down from on high.
That makes Brown an easy target to blame for putting businesses in a tough spot. But that would be misplacing the blame.
Businesses of all kinds have to obey rules and laws to help ensure public safety. Ask bartenders and bar owners the consequences they can face if their establishment serves too much booze to customers. Restaurants don’t have to provide you healthy food or even tasty food, but they have legal requirements to make sure their food is safe for consumption. Certain employers hire safety managers to implement state and federal safety rules and regulations.
Still, it’s fair to acknowledge a manager or owner of a hardware or general store is not likely to have confrontations with customers that a barkeep may have and probably does not have to give customers the boot as often.
Most Eastern Oregonians respect the notion of personal responsibility. As such, the real culprit in a confrontation over wearing a mask in a public space is the person refusing to wear the mask.
Really, how different is this from someone who insists on driving drunk? Or refuses to keep their ill-behaved dog on a leash? If someone with an aggressive dog tried to enter a grocery store, a manager would have every right to refuse to let that person shop with that dog because it’s a danger to everyone there.
If the store let the dog in and it bit someone in the store, the victim likely could sue the dog’s owner, sure, but the business also would be liable.
A business does not want that kind of liability. And does a business want a reputation of being lax on requirements dealing with the coronavirus? Does not seem like many would.
And we each have rights of personal expression — thanks to the state and federal constitutions — but the adage that your liberties end where another person’s nose begins holds true when it comes to wearing face coverings in public.
You can forgo a mask and act out in all kinds of ways, but you can’t endanger others while you do so. Nothing gives you that right.