Mask Exemptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic—A New Frontier for Clinicians | Global Health | JAMA Health Forum | JAMA Network
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Mask Exemptions During the COVID-19 Pandemic—A New Frontier for Clinicians

  • 1College of Law, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York
  • 2Department of History, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
  • 3Department of Medicine, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

Masking or face covering amid the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has emerged as a highly polarizing practice, with surprising partisan divisions. While masking remains contentious, there is bipartisan agreement among policy makers that medical exemptions for masking are necessary and appropriate. Yet there is a dearth of guidance for clinicians on how to approach a request for an exemption. We analyze the medical and legal standards to guide this debate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended face covering in public to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This recommendation applies broadly to all people older than 2 years, unless they have difficulty breathing or are incapacitated. States, municipalities, and businesses have set their own standards in masking requirements. There is, however, a dearth of evidence as to what conditions may warrant a medical exemption from this requirement. Within this gap, a new concern has emerged. A small but vocal group of people in the US have rejected calls for masking, with some claiming a medical exemption.

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    1 Comment for this article
    No Exemptions !
    Sanford Rosenthal, MD | None
    There is absolutely no reason for anyone to be given a mask exemption. I have severe obstructive asthma with areas of atelectasis, bronchiectasis, and remodeling of the airways and have no issues with wearing a mask. A good friend and fellow physician, who recently passed away, had end stage IPF and no problems wearing a mask.

    Don’t give mask exemptions to people who don’t want to wear a mask. They may give a reason that is euphonious, but it will be erroneous!