Masks and face coverings are now mandatory indoors in Toronto and surrounding regions, but exactly who can opt-out of wearing the masks has become increasingly murky as fake medical exemption cards have begun to be distributed.
Officially, only children under the age of two or people with medical conditions are allowed to avoid donning a mask. Some are finding those guidelines a little opaque, and further muddying the waters are anti-maskers apparently selling fake medical exemption cards online.
Toronto Public Health was forced to respond to phony exemption cards on Twitter, noting businesses are not permitted to require proof of medical exemptions. It also noted that the cards are not endorsed by the health agency.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health. said the cards were fraudulent and unnecessary, but noted there are still many reasons why someone may be required to keep a mask off.
“It may be a question of breathing or heart troubles or it may be a question of a developmental or cognitive issue that makes it difficult to take on and off the mask,” said de Villa.
Both Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory have both come out against the phony cards.
“Just be responsible, don’t be a scammer,” said Ford.
He said he had been in touch with the Red Cross, whose logo he said was fraudulently being used on some of the fake exemption cards.
“They’re a great organization and it’s unfortunate that people are using their logos and I understand they’re going to possibly be taking action,” he said.
Tory said those creating them were doing so for political reasons, and doubts many will actually take “scam artists” up on their offer.
At Red Pegasus gift shop in Little Italy, owner Rachel Chester said she thinks the directives could be clearer regarding opting-out for medical reasons.
On Tuesday, she said a woman visited her store and announced she couldn’t wear a mask because of her asthma.
“I just asked that she not touch things and it was OK,” said Chester.
She said she thinks further direction from medical experts on not only who qualifies for mask opt-outs would be helpful, along with instructions for those who don’t have to wear them.
“What those requirements are and even what that person’s behaviour should be when they enter,” said Chester.
“I don’t know whether she knew what her guidelines should be.”
She thinks more guidance could be provided for those who can’t wear a mask, covering details like touching items, speaking loudly, and other behaviours that could express liquid droplets.
De Villa said people who are legitimately opting out of wearing masks or face coverings have a responsibility to be extra vigilant.
She said they should pay attention to keep their distance from others, stay home if sick, and that they should cover their mouth if coughing, adding people should increase their hand washing — especially if they did cough or sneeze.
Overall, de Villa said that mask compliance was generally up in the city. She said it was an easy and relatively inexpensive way to help keep fellow residents safe.
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