Advice for those with medical conditions during a mask mandate

Experts say people with respiratory conditions have to do everything they can to protect themselves and others
Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 12:01 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Wednesday afternoon, Governor Mike DeWine issued the long-anticipated statewide mask order, going into effect for Ohioans at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

According to the order, all individuals over the age of 10 must wear a face-covering in public at all times inside businesses and when unable to physically distance themselves from others in outdoor spaces.

There are some additional exceptions, including people with a medical condition that would prevent them from wearing a mask.

However, experts say there are not many.

Dr. James Tita, Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Health Saint Vincent Hospital, says people with lung disease, COPD, and poorly controlled asthma will experience more shortness of breath when wearing a mask.

Tita says although the N-95 mask is the most effective at stopping the spread of the virus, it is also the most restrictive for the airways. For everyday use, he recommends trying a cloth mask or a face shield that fits comfortably and is not too tight, still covering the nose and mouth.

“From my perspective, though as a pulmonologist, I mean if you’re not able to wear a mask potentially out with the public and with other people, you probably shouldn’t be outside,” Tita said. He suggests people with severe conditions need to social distance and continue good hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to themselves and others.

Businesses trying to cater to all customers have found creative ways to involve everyone.

Uncork the Artist paint studio is still providing online painting classes and take-home kits for those more at risk of the virus.

Owner Cathie Nelson says a special reduced, distanced class for people with a condition is something she would consider in the future.

“They would have to be all the medical people who can’t wear a mask, for whatever medical reason they have, to accommodate them we could definitely do that,” says Nelson.

Despite any condition, Dr. Tita says not wearing a mask is not a decision for people to make lightly.

“If they are unable to wear that mask and they have to go out into the community they are placing both themselves and other people at risk,” says Tita, who is still overall in favor of the mask-wearing. “So they have to look at that in the context of them not wearing a mask.”

Copyright 2020 WTVG. All rights reserved.

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