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What conditions justify mask exemptions? UR health policy expert weighs in

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Masking exemptions have become a new frontier for physicians all over, including here locally.

Dr. Mical Raz is a health policy expert at the University of Rochester. She says doctors must consider many layers before granting a mask exemption if patients ask them for one. 

“An exemption is not something that is easy and meaningless. It is a risk to public health. If we exempt people inappropriately we could hasten the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. So we have to think about this long and hard,” Dr. Raz said. 

Respiratory conditions such as asthma is one of the main reasons people claim not to wear a mask and want an exemption, but that may not be a good idea according to Dr. Raz. 

“If you have a breathing condition, first of all you probably have some chronic cough,
she said. “Or, you could have some chronic breathing issues. You might be at a bigger risk of spreading it, don’t do it. But you’re also at a bigger risk of getting the disease and having a severe illness. Wear a mask and protect yourself, protect others,” said Raz. 

So which health conditions warrant a mask exemption? According to Dr. Raz, children with sensory processing disorders and people with facial deformities. 

Raz said if wearing a mask really does bother you, talk to your physician to find other alternatives. Doctors should handle these requests from their patients with compassion.

“Taking them seriously and listening to them is not providing them with an exemption. People should be aware that when they go to their doctor, they may not be provided with this exemption, if it’s not warranted. In particular it comes at a cost to public health,” said Raz. 

Doctor Raz along with Doron Dorfman, an associate professor of law at Syracuse University, recently had their findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

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