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Not everyone can wear a mask, Campbell River woman wants community to keep in mind

People enforcing mask rules frequently ignore that possibility
British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. Dr. Henry frequently reminds people that there are those people who cannot wear a mask for legitimate reasons and they don’t have to. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Nearly every message about wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 includes a passage that a lot of people seem to be missing.

And a Campbell River woman says she and others like her are being victimized by people who have missed that message.

Carol De’Ath, 80, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and she cannot wear a mask. But that should be okay because as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and others frequently say when giving their COVID-19 updates, those who are unable to wear a mask for a variety of reasons, don’t have to. And should be treated with respect and consideration.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows this or they ignore it. De’Ath is frequently confronted as she enters local businesses and told – not very pleasantly – that she has to wear a mask.

“She got very belligerent about it,” De’Ath said about an incident in a Comox Valley retail outlet.

De’Ath said during that incident she tried to explain about her condition and that she has a letter from her doctor confirming her condition. That letter was acquired early on in the pandemic but large outlet employees frequently fail to take into consideration the possibility of a condition prohibiting the use of masks.

The BC Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 web page about masks says specifically: “People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. Some people cannot wear a mask for psychological, behavioural or health conditions. Be respectful of people who can’t wear a mask.”

De’Ath says there are many store employees who do understand and let her in without any problem. And there have been times when an incident is brought up to store management, the managers have been understanding and offered to remind their staff to keep those who can’t wear a mask in mind.

“Some people have been good,” De’Ath said, but other people “have been jerks.”

De’Ath is a widow and has to do her own shopping but, “I am afraid to go out,” she said.

Her sister suggested she get her doctor’s letter laminated and hung around her neck whenever she goes anywhere.

De’Ath agrees that everybody who can wear a mask should wear one. She would wear one if she could.

De’Ath said her “breathing is difficult as it is.”

“My lungs just wheeze and whistle,” she said. Talking to her on the phone, you can hear in her voice that breathing is laboured.

De’Ath was prompted to speak out about her situation after reading about the people who make a big scene about having to wear a mask when told to by business staff. Many unpleasant encounters have involved people who feel the pandemic is a hoax and being required to wear a mask is an infringement on a person’s rights. Police have been called in some situations.

RELATED: Campbell River businesses not immune to mask refusals and disturbances

But De’Ath wants people to keep in mind that there is another side to this issue.

“I know there are people being belligerent and I think that is very rude and should not be done,” De’Ath said.

Business owners and employees are under pressure themselves having to enforce mask rules and that is never a pleasant situation, especially when you can trigger a vehement refusal.

But you also don’t have to be rude to the people who have a good reason to not wear a mask.


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