Not wearing a mask for medical reasons shouldn’t require doctor’s note, say health officials

Not wearing a mask for medical reasons shouldn't require doctor’s note, say health officials
A man in Victoria wears a face mask amid COVID-19 regulations

They’re one of the easiest ways to protect against COVID-19: masks. But not everyone is able to wear them.

Some have health conditions, physical, cognitive, or mental impairments that prevent them from being able to wear a mask. Others, simply just can’t put them on.

So should those exempt from wearing masks have to carry a doctor’s note as proof?

Health officials say no, worried about the pressure that may put on our already strained health care system.

“We don’t want our walk-in clinics having lineups for people seeking letters for exemption. Is this really a good use of health care resources in a time when we’re really focusing on a much bigger challenge and that’s keeping the general population healthy from COVID-19?” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Chief Medical Health Officer for Island Health.

And advocates say people with disabilities shouldn’t have to prove, they have a disability.

“There are probably more invisible disabilities than there are visible disabilities,” said Wendy Cox, executive director of the Victoria Disability Resource Centre.

“People with PTSD, people with anxiety, with tactile sensory disabilities that are unable to have a mask on their face. Enclosed spaces and masks can trigger anxiety attacks. Somebody could have one or all of these and you wouldn’t know because you can’t see it.”

Not only that, but doctor’s notes come with an unfair cost of around $50.

Something the controversial organization ‘Hugs Over Masks’ is trying to find a loophole around.

They’re providing anti-maskers a piece of paper, intending to ‘exempt’ them from wearing masks in stores.

“I have no time for people who believe that wearing a mask somehow makes them ill, or is a sign of lack of freedom. To me it’s about respect for our fellow people who are suffering through this with us,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer on Wednesday.

Even still, when it comes to making snap judgments of people who are not wearing masks, experts say, please don’t.

“Be curious as to why somebody may not be wearing a mask, and if you can’t hold your tongue, at least be kind about it and ask questions, and offer support,” said Cox.

Because many who we meet have battles, struggles, and challenges that we know nothing about.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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