Individuals in Alberta must now have a note from their doctor to be exempt from the province’s face mask requirement.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced that starting May 13, the rules around exemptions from wearing a mask due to a medical condition are changing.
“Wearing face masks is a critical public measure that helps prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Hinshaw. “That’s why we’ve recommended wearing them for more than a year and why we’ve had a provincial mask mandate in place since December.”
She went on to say that only individuals with certain conditions are exempt from wearing a mask in public places.
Conditions include contact dermatitis, allergic reactions to mask components, facial trauma, recent oral or jaw surgery, acute respiratory distress, mental illness disorders, sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, or cognitive impairment.
Being unable to put on or take off a mask independently or an occupational risk for wearing a mask are also included in the exceptions for wearing a face covering.
The medical exemption letter has to come from a nurse practitioner, physician, or psychologist. It may be presented when in a public setting if requested by enforcement officials or in court if a ticket is issued for violating the mask mandate.
“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,” said Dr. Hinshaw.
More details about what needs to be included in this letter are available on the Alberta government’s website.
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Dr. Hinshaw noted that Alberta is modelling this new rule after the approaches currently used in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
“This change is not meant to punish people unfairly, it’s meant to ensure anyone who is capable of wearing a mask complies with this important public health measure, intended to keep us all safe,” the doctor said.
Fines for violating public health measures, including not wearing a mask where required, have doubled to $2,000 in Alberta.
Unpaid fines also now have stronger fine collection actions, including restrictions on registry services such as renewing a driver’s licence, and repeat offenders will be targeted with a new, multi-agency enforcement framework.
As of May 13, 411 tickets have been given out in Calgary for failure to wear a face-covering where required since August. Edmonton has handed out 423 tickets under the Temporary Mandatory Face Coverings Bylaw.