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There is a lot of social media chatter about people with medical conditions asserting their right not to wear a mask, in light of the governor’s directive that exempts them from the requirement to wear one.

However, this exemption does not mean that they may enter stores or offices without a mask, as some people are doing. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be used as a template, though not every “medical condition” is a “disability.” The ADA does define “disability” very broadly, but it is not all inclusive.

There is guidance on face mask policies from the office that administers the ADA: www.adasoutheast.org/ada/publications/legal/ada-and-face-mask-policies.php. I urge everyone to read this.

Bottom line: The law does not dictate that a business must allow unmasked access, even to those with disabilities. Rather “state and local government agencies and private businesses must make reasonable modifications to allow people with disabilities to access the goods and services they offer.” Such modifications can include (as just two examples): allowing a scarf or shield instead of a mask, or having online ordering/curbside pickup.

The privacy rights of people with medical conditions should be inviolate, and no one should be required to disclose them (except as provided in the ADA itself). But falsely claiming a medical condition to avoid wearing a mask is morally, if not legally, wrong.

We all have an obligation to protect each other from this dread disease that is rapidly growing in Montana. Let us all follow the guidelines, including the wearing of face coverings as well as distancing, sanitizing surfaces and washing hands. And let us not have the kind of incidents of threatening/dangerous behavior that we see happening in other states directed at those workers who are charged with administering the policies.

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Emily Sieger

Bozeman