What you need to know about COVID-19 mask exemptions in B.C.

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WatchA Duncan salon owner arrested over a mask dispute says she's getting hate mail, despite claiming she has an exemption. So how do medical exemptions work? Tess van Straaten takes a look.

Masks have been mandatory in B.C. in all indoor public spaces since November, but there are still cases of people not wearing a mask.

A Duncan hair salon owner is now getting hate mail after a video was posted to Facebook of her being arrested for refusing to give RCMP her name when they tried to give her a ticket for not wearing a mask at work.

“I said I was exempt and then he asked for my paperwork and I told him that was my private medical information,” Taneal Maloney of Fallen for Nails, Hair & Beauty Salon told CHEK News on Monday.

Businesses aren’t required to ask a customer to prove they have an exemption due to a health condition or physical, cognitive or mental impairment, according to WorkSafeBC.

But health officials say the rules are different for business owners and employees.

“We’re certainly willing to work with employers and employees to achieve an accommodation,” says Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer. “However, this is not to say that businesses will be exempt for mask-wearing.”

Vancouver Island’s top doctor says businesses have to work with Island Health and WorkSafe to see if an accommodation can be made that will result in an acceptable safety plan.

“This is something where there has to be a detailed process followed,” Dr. Stanwick explains. “And even at the end of the day, it may not be able to be achieved.”

Accommodations vary by industry but can include working from home, limiting contact with the public, or increasing ventilation in enclosed spaces.

As for enforcement, RCMP say it really depends on the situation when someone says they have an exemption.

“That would really need to be on a case-by-case basis,” says Const. Carlie McCann of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. “That’s one of those grey areas we would really need to look at in the situation.”

And while officials admit some people might lie to avoid wearing a mask, they believe most people are following the rules.

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