It’s one thing to mandate masks.

It’s an entirely different matter when fines are being doled out for noncompliance.

Yet that is the exact route the state of Oregon has taken.

On July 29, Gov. Kate Brown required that all K-12 schools are required to have pupils within their walls wear masks this fall.

That news itself was tough enough to swallow.

Then, the Oregon Health Authority took it a step further.

Beginning Aug. 12 — that’s tomorrow — schools that do not comply with the new mask mandate can face a fine of up to $500 per day, per incident.

It sounds all too much like the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that required a citizen to sign up for health insurance or face a fine.

This makes the decision for local school boards who want to advocate for local control that much more difficult — comply, or face a fine.

All three local school districts have agreed to comply, though, and it’s the right move to make.

Though, from a financial standpoint, they almost have to. Just one incident a day could cost a school between $2,000-$2,500 per week. That is $8,000-$10,000 each month.

Strictly as an example, Enterprise and Wallowa are both set to have around 150 school days this year. If they were found to be in violation each day, even just once daily, that could amount to more than $75,000 in fines.

Love them or hate them, masks are a good idea in the school setting for now with cases creeping up again. No, students have not been getting sick from coronavirus at nearly the rate as adults or the elderly, but some recent reports seem to indicate the delta variant — the most prominent one in the U.S. currently — is having a more severe impact on the younger population.

But it is not a good idea to, in this instance, strip away the local authority that was just given to the counties. And then to go a step further and say you’re going to fine dissenters?

It feels like that crosses a line.

Everyone is tired of the rules. Tired of the masks. Tired of coronavirus. Tired of the hospitalizations. Tired of all the politicization of this 18-month mess of mayhem.

But these smaller districts can’t stand to lose $75,000 or more in fines, either.

As much as this publication would like the control to stay local — and believes that is the correct move — this is an instance where, at least for now, it is best for the districts of Wallowa County to comply with the rules and mask students and staff.

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