MILWAUKIE, Ore. (KOIN) — There are many people to be found in Clackamas County who are in favor of the indoor mask mandate despite Chair Tootie Smith’s outspoken opposition to it.
Milwaukie resident Yesenia Mata said she’s wearing her mask indoors and on public transportation. She told KOIN 6 News, “I’m fine with the mask thing.”
Chair Smith spoke to dozens of unmasked community members at a Clackamas County board meeting on Thursday, calling Gov. Kate Brown’s mask mandate “unacceptable.”
“Vaccine and mask mandates are wrong and fail to improve public health,” she said.
But Oregon Rep. Rachel Prusak, who is also a nurse, said the mask mandates are necessary to save lives. She said she sees the impact of the virus firsthand in her line of work.
“I truly believe the next couple weeks are going to be really hard on our workers and our healthcare system, she said. “To know that we are reinstating a mask mandate to save lives and that someone in leadership would go against that — despite the recommendation from healthcare providers, despite healthcare providers working so hard over the past 18 months — I needed to speak up.”
Smith also slammed the governor for statements on hospital capacity.
“[Brown] cries about hospital capacity — so increase the hospital capacity with the money given to our state by the federal government,” Smith said.
Prusak said it’s not that simple.
“We can’t just snap our fingers and have increased capacity. We could set up a bed but who’s going to care for that patient in the bed? Who’s going to intubate that patient in the bed? Who’s going to make sure that patient is cared for while they are sick?” she asked.
Prusak said frontline nurses and physicians are exhausted and hospitals are filling up. She said the situation impacts everyone, regardless of whether they’re sick with COVID-19 or not.
“Patients are on divert from ERs right now,” said Prusak. “This isn’t about politics. This is about healthcare.”