Alberta is clarifying rules for people who don’t wear masks in public places because of medical conditions, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Thursday.
“There are a very limited number of health issues for which a mask exemption is possible,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw told a news conference.
“Effective today, in order to verify that someone has a medical condition that makes them unable to wear a mask, Albertans with these conditions will require a medical exception letter from a health professional,” Hinshaw said.
“This letter is important to have, especially if requested by enforcement officials for not complying with the legal requirement to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.”
The list of health conditions includes people with sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, some mental illnesses, facial trauma or recent surgery, contact dermatitis or allergic reactions to mask materials, and clinically significant respiratory distress.
People seeking ‘loopholes’
Hinshaw said public health officials are aware of recent cases of people not following rules.
“We’ve seen … some of the reports that have been conveyed to us by our teams on the ground, and as well, obviously, there have been some incidents reported in the media where individuals who are not following public health rules are perhaps seeking loopholes, or areas in the rules, where it’s not clear,” she said.
“That’s sometimes challenging our local law enforcement teams to be able to remind people of the importance of following these rules and the fact that they are not optional, they are mandatory.”
At the beginning of May, hundreds of Albertans, most whom weren’t wearing masks, attended an event just south of Red Deer, Alta., dubbed the “No more lockdowns rodeo rally.” The event drew a harsh rebuke from Premier Jason Kenney and resulted in charges under the Public Health Act being laid against the organizers.
Hinshaw said clarifying the rules around who can’t wear masks will help frontline enforcement teams verify when people do have a medical exemption.