Wear a Mask

Lane County continues reopening despite virus surge

Lydia McKee is concerned about going to work. McKee is a 23-year-old Lane Community College student who works in the clothing section of the Gateway Target in Springfield.

McKee says that the store reported on June 27 that one of its employees had tested positive for the coronavirus. That employee’s last work day before quarantine? Also June 27.

“A lot of people received calls. A lot of people did not receive calls,” McKee says on the announcement.

Though it’s easy to forget these days, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic. Nearly 500,000 people have been killed by the novel coronavirus worldwide, and Oregon is continuing to reopen despite reporting new records of cases almost daily.

Every county in Oregon has entered at least Phase One in reopenings, and reported cases across the state, especially in Multnomah, Union and Lincoln, have surged. Lane County, which typically reported no cases a day just before it entered the first phase of reopening, now reports around 13 new cases daily.

Despite the surge, people have tried to make masks a political issue — Gov. Kate Brown ordered people in some counties to wear masks in public, indoor spaces on June 12 but did not extend the order statewide until July 1. Meanwhile, states like Texas and Arizona have rolled back reopenings after seeing record cases, and Brown said she may do the same if cases continue to increase.

According to data provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), businesses in the Eugene-Springfield area have had 496 COVID-19 related complaints filed against them by employees since March 13. Some businesses and organizations have had multiple grievances filed against them. The issues listed in the complaints range from businesses not requiring or allowing for social distancing, management allowing employees to come into work while sick or with a fever and improper sanitization of the area.

Target never made masks mandatory for customers to enter the store, and now that it’s a legal requirement — punishable as a Class C misdemeanor — employees are still not allowed to ask customers why they’re not wearing a mask or to request that they put one on, McKee says. Instead, they are supposed to ask their managers.

The Springfield Target directed calls for comment to its corporate press office, which did not respond to requests for comment.

“It’s HR and management’s job to protect the workers,” McKee says. And for McKee’s coworkers, that doesn’t mean they feel safe, she says.

“It’s really hard for people to speak out when they’re afraid of losing their job,” McKee says. While she says she feels comfortable speaking out because her family can support her — though not without some financial strain — her coworkers may not be so lucky.

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