The province’s chief health officer said Thursday that Alberta is clarifying the rules for those who do not wear a mask in public due to medical conditions.
“There are a very small number of health issues that can be exempted from the mask,” Dr. Deena Hinsha told a news conference.
“Coming into effect today, to check if someone has a medical condition and they can’t wear a mask, Albertance with these conditions will need a medical exemption letter from a health professional,” Hinsha said.
“It is important to have this letter, especially if requested by enforcement officials not to comply with the legal requirement to wear a mask in indoor public places.”
The list of health conditions includes emotional processing disorders, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, certain mental illnesses, facial trauma or recent surgery, contact dermatitis or allergies to mask products and clinically significant respiratory disorders.
People looking for ‘holes’
Hinsha said public health officials were aware of recent cases of people not following the rules.
“We saw … some reports reported to us by our teams on the ground, as well as, apparently, some incidents reported in the media where there are individuals who do not follow public health rules. Perhaps it is not clear what the holes or areas within the rules look like,” he said.
“It sometimes challenges our local law enforcement committees to remind people of the importance of following these rules and that they are unwilling. They must.”
In early May, hundreds of masked Alberts attended an event south of the Red Man, Alta, labeled “No more locking rodeo rally.” The event provoked strong condemnation from Prime Minister Jason Kenny and allegations were leveled against the organizers under the Public Health Act.
Clarifying the rules on who can not wear masks will help lead enforcement committees check when people have a medical exemption, Hinsha said.
The letter should come from a doctor, a nurse practitioner or a psychologist, Hinsha said. He said Alberta’s new approach was designed based on rules in use in Manitoba and Quebec.
Alberta reported 1,558 new Covid-19 cases and nine new deaths on Thursday. The deaths occurred between April 29 and Thursday, and included people between the ages of 40 and 90.
The province completed 15,300 tests for the disease, with a positive rate of 10.6 percent.
Hinsha said 722 people are now in the hospital, including 177 in intensive care.
Driven by the advent of more contagious variants, cases have been on the rise since mid-March, putting additional pressure on leading health care providers and prompting Alberta to introduce stricter public health regulations.
On May 4, the province announced major restrictions. The new rules target the spread of the virus in schools, places of worship, business and private gatherings, and seek to prevent violators. They apply to most provinces, except for smaller sections with smaller cassettes.
All kindergartens for Grade 12 students were transferred online for a two-week period.
Restaurant patio and personal services such as nail and hair salons were closed and retail capacity further restricted.
Churches are now limited to 15 participants with high COVID-19 rates in Alberta and 15 percent in all other parts of the province. Penalties for COVID-19 violations were doubled and most workplaces with explosions were forced to close temporarily.