By Julia Burdsall, Editor-in-Chief
New to the scene, Kevista Coffee, widely known as “Kevista,” joined the Westside’s coffee community in 2019. Nestled between Dutch Bros and First Interstate bank and housed in the old Skjersaa’s building on Century, Kevista captured one of the most prime locations in Bend—making them the new hot spot for locals, tourists and evening workaholics with a crippling caffeine addiction.
The combination of adorable hanging chairs, spacious indoor seating, an impressive pastry selection and the unforgettable aroma of freshly ground coffee beans creates the perfect coffee shop ambiance.
“I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere at Kevista before the pandemic,” said senior Healy Bledsoe. “It was a really awesome spot for me to grab coffee and get some school work done.”
The Westside has no shortage of cafe or coffee lovers and, like Bledsoe, many were enthusiastic supporters of Kevista Coffee—until the devastating outbreak of Covid-19 reared its ugly head. Beginning in early summer of 2020 and defying Governor Brown’s rules that restaurants must be take-out only and masks must be worn inside all public and private buildings, owners Krista and Kevin Lauinger opted to allow customers to linger inside.
But that’s not all: it’s become a well-known fact that Krista and Kevin permit staff and customers to operate without masks, which not only flies in the face of state mandates but also that of science, safety and basic compassion for one’s community. Kevista’s blatant neglect for the health and wellbeing of Bendites has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Covid-cautious, pro-science, pro-mask crowd—becoming a refuge for the anti-maskers of the Westside.
After a recent investigation into the Kevista scandal, the Bend Bulletin discovered that, “during a previous inspection for mask violations in July, owners Kevin and Krista Lauinger told OSHA inspectors they would not comply with the mask mandate.” By July, Kevista’s failure to respect state guidelines eventually caught up with them: OSHA fined the establishment $8,900.
The choice, though, to forgo enforcement of masks and social distancing is not unique to Kevista. Two Redmond establishments, Fred Meyer and Axis Salon, faced OSHA fines for disregarding the state mandates as well as BoXiT Fitness Studios in Bend.
But, rather than keep their defiance under wraps, Kevista has used the pandemic as a political statement—making clear their stance on state guidelines by using “medical reason” signage as justification for their noncompliance.
Requesting to remain anonymous, a Summit senior, frequent coffee drinker and pro-masker noticed Kevista’s blatant defiance of Oregon’s Covid-19 health and safety guidelines months back.
“When I have gone into Kevista, no one has been wearing a mask,” the senior said, “The baristas were serving without face coverings and none of the 40-plus customers were wearing them either.”
According to the Bend Bulletin it was uncovered that, in “an interview with an OSHA safety compliance officer, Lauinger said he had researched face coverings and believed they were ineffective in stopping the spread of Covid-19.”
Where Kevista owner Kevin Lauinger is sourcing information remains unclear: the CDC clearly explains that wearing a mask significantly reduces the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth, thereby limiting the spread of Covid-19. The use of masks is backed by scientists worldwide and Kevista is effectively laughing in the face of such sober research.
But, it is important to acknowledge that Kevista isn’t ignoring state mandates because they’ve got some cruel agenda, hoping to infect as many people as possible, “I like to give Kevista the benefit of the doubt—they aren’t malicious people,” the Summit senior said. “Instead, they are acting under the misconception that their actions have no impact on others.”
And perhaps that’s just it: the owners of Kevista and those supporting their cafe are simply misinformed, rhetorically poisoned by extreme right-wing propaganda. It seems rather foolish to believe that the science behind an entire pandemic is simply a hoax: something fabricated by the government—the world over—to trick you into taking a vaccine with a chip in it. Then again, here we are, roughly 10 months into a quarantine meant to last two weeks.
Kevista provides the Westside of Bend a window through which we can glimpse the dangerous consequences of misinformation: a window into the half that refuses to comply with health and safety guidelines and refuses to believe in science, the half many would like to credit for the elongation of an incredibly devastating pandemic.
“From a scientific perspective, the only way that progress is made is with compliance,” the anonymous senior said, “by willfully ignoring the guidelines, businesses are negating the collective efforts of the whole rest of the county.” But progress doesn’t end with compliance. We need to right the ship of misinformation and somehow stop the boat of progress and decency from taking on so much water.
Fake news circulating the pandemic has plagued the minds of millions of Americans, proliferating fraudulent and nonsensical ideologies—catalyzing an exponential rise in yearly obituaries. The pandemic has been exacerbated by fallacious and unsound “theories,” trapping those not critical enough to see the faulty ground their information rests upon.
Conspiracy articles and videos like “Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind Covid-19”—one of the most widespread pieces of fake news regarding Covid-19—promote misinformation about the pandemic, declaring it a smokescreen for fraudulent government activity.
Beyond hyper-conspired broadcasting, conservative media—like Fox News, Newsmax and Breitbart—has further encouraged viewers to doubt the authenticity of the pandemic, dangerously duping millions into questioning health and safety guidelines meant to slow the spread of Covid-19: a trap in which Kevista appears to have been caught.
Kevista is obviously not alone here. According to The Washington Post, chief editor of the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review discovered, “an incredible number of studies and solid data showing that consuming far-right media and social media content was strongly associated with low concern about the virus at the onset of the pandemic.”
It is likely that the Kevistas of our nation turn to the far-right media outlets referenced by the Harvard Kennedy School, now begging the question of whether or not they have become victims—unknowingly polarized into blind noncompliance.
It is quite possible that many are unaware of the distorted logic of their pandemic “research,” and have been poisoned, unintentionally preyed upon by conservative mass media. Kevista is the perfect example of taking misinformation and running with it, failing to acknowledge nor understand that it is most certainly ill-founded.
But, whether or not Kevista is a victim of fake news, they must do better. They must step back and recognize that hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens—400,000 as of presstime— have lost their lives to Covid-19. To say masks don’t work is to invalidate the suffering endured by families across the nation. As a local business, Kevista and their ilk have a responsibility to uphold a higher standard of care and compassion for themselves, their customers and the Bend community.
“I have stopped going to Kevista since I learned about their response to the pandemic,” Bledsoe said. “But I do hope they can re-evaluate their choice to not enforce masks. We all want the spread of Covid-19 to slow and it starts in our communities.”
Though there appears a light at the end of the tunnel as Oregon begins its lengthy vaccination process, it is only the beginning of the end. The pandemic will not go away unless some sense of unity is found in the broken pieces of a shattered nation—and it starts with the Kevistas.