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Perks for masks

SOU hands out $5 gift cards to mask-compliant students

If people want to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, one of the things they should do is wear masks, public health officials say.

And if students at Southern Oregon University are wearing masks correctly, the school’s office of the dean of students believes they should get some perks.

Victoria Goodson, coordinator for student conduct and restorative justice, has been going around campus handing out $5 cards that allow them to purchase food from any campus vendor. The initiative began late last week and will last through at least the school year.

“Now that we are largely in-person, we want to be able to give something back to the students to say ‘thank you,’” Goodson said. “If we had students who weren’t complying with our policy, we wouldn’t be able to be in person.”

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Victoria Goodson, Southern Oregon University coordinator for student conduct and restorative justice, gives student Matayoshi Matsunaga a gift card for wearing his mask correctly Wednesday.

Goodson said SOU complies with the governor’s mask requirement that face coverings be worn indoors or at gatherings in which social distancing is not possible.

“They have to wear a face covering appropriately — not below the nose, not below the chin — they have to be wearing it completely over their nose, chin and mouth,” Goodson said. “The only exception to that is when a student is eating.”

Coming into the recreation center Nov. 3, Maya Hegedus, a junior economics major, thought she was just going to get a good workout — then she got a gift card. She said she might buy a pint of ice cream with it.

“That sounds good,” said Hegedus, who added her favorite flavor is Rocky Road.

Sarah Smith, a sophomore majoring in theater, also received a gift card when she was seen wearing her mask in the recreation center Wednesday.

“Five dollars is nice as a broke college student, so why not?” she said.

Goodson’s observations on campus is that, by and large, students are wearing their masks.

“As I go around the Student Union, I am seeing students in spaces and study rooms ... wearing face coverings even if they’re the only ones in there,” she said.

Smith believes everyone should wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We do have a lot of students on campus and people interacting with each other,” she said. “Maybe there’s interactions with someone who doesn’t go to our school, so the virus can spread that way. Just really having that extra protection with the [mask] is nice.”

Goodson said she sometimes has to “politely interject” and remind students to wear their masks inside.

“100% of the students who I’ve told that to do comply right away and say, ‘Oh, why thank you for the reminder,’” she said.

Smith, who works in the recreation center, sees the situation a little differently. She wonders whether a gift card will get students who are complacent over mask wearing to comply.

“They might be like, ‘of course, I wear my mask’ and then maybe they might be like, ‘oh, no, actually I don’t,” Smith said. “I don’t know what their problem is. It’s not that hard to wear a mask.”

Goodson hopes to give out five to 10 gift cards a week. The office of the dean of students wants to start the gift card on a smaller scale first before deciding whether to apply it to large events.

SOU is not the only place that has tried incentivising its people to protect against COVID-19. News reports from across the country show cities big and small — from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Chicago — have tried them in an effort to get people vaccinated.

The state of Oregon has tried gift cards as an incentive to get people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Charles Boyle, deputy communications director for the governor. In June alone, he said, just over 1,500 $100 gift cards to Fred Meyer and Safeway were given out to people in the state who received their first COVID-19 vaccine.