CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The Benton County Board of Commissioners is "strongly" recommending mask usage in public places where social distancing isn't possible after passing a resolution Thursday night.
Masks are required in eight Oregon counties following guidance from Gov. Kate Brown. Benton County's recommendation falls short of a requirement, but officials hope that the strength of the resolution will encourage residents to wear masks voluntarily.
"I think that our board really wanted to be sensitive to the fact that many members of our community may have a reason why they can't have a face covering on. So having a strong recommendation allows for personal preference as well as personal ability," said Benton County Joint Information Center manager Lili'a Neville.
According to Neville, the board made the decision at the recommendation of county public health officials in light of a relatively steady case count. Some Corvallis residents told KEZI 9 News they understand the need to wear masks but appreciate the freedom of choice afforded by the recommendation.
"In this outside space where I am right now, that's a decision of mine for taking it or not. But I know what I have to do because they told me what I have to do. So I think they are doing this the correct way," said resident Adrian Aguilar.
Officials said that the board may consider a full face-covering requirement if there is a spike in cases. Some residents wondered if a requirement would have been an appropriate choice.
"I think we just have to be flexible as a community and be willing to do whatever it takes to take care of everyone," said Ladona Martin. "If that means everybody needs to wear a mask everywhere, OK, so be it. But I just don't know how that will be enforced."
According to Neville, the recommendation underscores the public health education efforts of the county, and more communications about the resolution may come out next week.
"If you remember in the beginning, face masks weren't recommended for individuals who weren't symptomatic with COVID-19. So we absolutely have an uphill battle in educating the community about why now we want them to wear a face covering," she said.