Masks wearing has been recommended for almost a year and provincially mandated in indoor spaces for nearly six months.
As of Thursday, the province made an adjustment to those medical conditions that qualify for an exemption and what proof needs to be provided.
In her Thursday COVID-19 update, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the government has been working on a more detailed framework, to help those involved in mask-wearing enforcement.
“Individuals who are not following public health rules are perhaps seeking loopholes or areas in the rules where it’s not clear and that’s sometimes challenging for our local law enforcement teams to be able to remind people of the importance of following these rules and the fact that they are not optional, they are mandatory,” Hinshaw said.
“With the feedback we’ve received about how we can make our public health orders more enforceable, this is one of the things we heard is going to be effective at supporting our frontline enforcement teams being able to verify when people do have a medical exemption.”
Hinshaw said that in order to verify someone has a condition that makes them unable to wear a mask, they will need a medical exception letter from a health professional. Letters must come from a nurse practitioner, physician or psychologist.
“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,” Hinshaw said.
The qualifying conditions include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay or cognitive impairment, mental illness disorders, facial trauma or recent oral or jaw surgery, contact dermatitis or allergic reaction to mask components or clinically significant acute respiratory distress.
Individuals are only exempt from wearing a mask in public places in certain circumstances. These include being unable to put on or take off a mask independently if someone is eating or drinking while sitting down if there is an occupational risk for wearing a mask and other specific situations.
Hinshaw said the changes Thursday come based on the models being used in Saskatchewan and Quebec.
“This change is not meant to punish people unfairly. It is meant to ensure anyone who is capable of wearing a mask, complies with this important, public health measure,” Hinshaw said.
“Intended to keep us all safe, which is especially important during this third wave of COVID-19 in the province.”