Members of a movement called “anti-maskers” claim they’re exempt from mandates to wear a mask in public because they have a medical condition that makes wearing one risky. Some anti-maskers also say they’re not required to disclose said condition, because of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) or privacy laws like The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
There are no known medical conditions that would prevent a person from wearing a mask, with the possible exception of a severe skin condition. Even those with respiratory illnesses, including asthma, COPD, etc., can wear a cloth mask or surgical mask.1 If one finds wearing a mask cumbersome, they should try a different type, such as a moisture-wicking, breathable cloth mask.2
As for the claim about disclosing one’s condition, the ADA does require those with disabilities to be “reasonably accommodated” in public businesses, but such accommodations don’t include exemptions from mask-wearing without another similar health measure. The Justice Department stated in June, “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.”3
Meanwhile, HIPAA applies to health care providers and insurers, requiring them to protect the privacy of patients’ health information. It does not apply to a person or business owner asking another person or patron. Therefore, asking about what medical condition a maskless person might have is legal.4
DOCS agrees with public health experts that everyone should wear a mask in public, find one that fits comfortably and is breathable for them, and not attempt to hide behind ADA or HIPAA laws.
Check the facts:
1: Health: Can You Be Medically Exempt from Wearing a Face Mask? Health Experts Weigh In
2: Business Insider: ‘Anti-maskers’ say medical conditions prevent them from wearing masks, but doctors say that’s not a legitimate excuse
3: USA TODAY: Fact check: ADA does not provide blanket exemption from face mask requirements
4: USA TODAY: Fact check: No mask? You can ask why — it isn’t against HIPAA or the Fourth or Fifth Amendments