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UMA: Doctors discouraged to issue “mask exemptions”

Students at Alta High School in Sandy demonstrated what school will like with COVID-19 restrictions. (KSLTV)

SALT LAKE CITY— The Utah Medical Association (UMA) says there should be a good reason to grant a mask exemptions to kids in school. 

A media release from the UMA earlier this week stated they discouraged physicians from providing medical exemptions. And if a physician does “feel the need to provide an exemption, that it only be for evidence-based guidelines and medical society opinions that may be available.”

UMA President Dr. Matthew Wilson says there is a common concern about how masks can affect kids with asthma.

“I know that asthma comes up a lot. In almost every case, that not a reason for someone not to wear a mask,” said Dr. Wilson. He said there are years of evidence that conclude people with asthma are not affected by wearing a mask. 

Dr. Wilson brought up his own colleagues. “Some physicians have asthma… and yet [they’ve] been wearing masks for hours at a time, in operating rooms [or other areas in the hospital.]” 

He mentioned the example precludes that the asthmatic isn’t wearing a mask made of a material they are allergic to. However, “there are lots of different materials that masks are made from,” said Dr. Wilson. 

Wilson fears a similar scenario to when patients have come seeking doctor’s notes for various reasons in the past, because they are uncomfortable.

“That’s not going to meet the public health needs of our communities at this time,” said Dr. Wilson. 

He explained the problem behind students not wearing a mask. “If an [asymptomatic] student walks in with the virus and is wearing a mask, it’s possible that that student won’t give it to anybody.”

“But if we have 10% of the people not wearing a mask, and 1 in that 10% is a carrier, then we haven’t made it possible for [the other students] to walk out without the virus.”

Wilson thinks a goal to have 100% of students wearing a mask at school is pretty reasonable too. 

“The mask is such a benign thing to ask for someone to do,” said Wilson. “It’s the only acceptable goal for a school that is trying to remain open.”

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States