In Oregon, my local news station said that many local businesses, such as airports, are requiring that everyone wear masks or face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. They said that those who were less than two years of age, and those with medical conditions or disabilities that prevented them from wearing such a mask would be exempt.

I first heard this announcement about two weeks ago, so I Googled simple phrases like

medical condition prevent wearing mask

and one article came up, although it was largely based on rumours and political choices.

So, if anyone can provide further clarification on whether there has actually been any study to prove or disprove these claims, that would be excellent.

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    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 19:17
  • Probably some allergy to material(s) from which the mask is made of. Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 20:09
  • a medical condition that would prevent folks from wearing a respirator would at least include people who have difficulty breathing (shortness of breath) when not wearing a respirator. For example: people who have one lung, have black lung, lung cancer, are obese, require an oxygen tank, etc. Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 11:07

1 Answer 1


My interpretation of this advice is that it is creating a necessary loophole for, say, someone's physician to state that a patient should not wear a mask. Maybe it would include people on supplemental oxygen or with respiratory difficulties. Could also include people with injuries on the face.

The point is that it is vague on purpose; it doesn't intend to make any specific claims or allude to a particular condition (if it did, it would state that condition). I would not expect there to be any study of this because the circumstances involved are all going to be "special cases".

An airport isn't qualified to act as everyone's personal physician, and does not feel safe giving medical/public health advice that cannot be overruled, as this could lead to a lawsuit if they were to, say, expel someone from their premises who had a legally protected reason to not wear a mask.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a relevant law, and includes protections and requires accommodations for those with disabilities.

I did find one public health source (and I'm sure there are others, just using this as a particular example) that has some more specific exemptions which included:

Those who cannot breathe safely;

Those who, due to a behavioral health diagnosis, are unable to do so;

Those communicating with people who rely on lip-reading;

Those who require supplemental oxygen to breathe;

Again, #1 is a broad category allowing for people to get personal opinions from their doctor that their breathing is impaired by a mask, #2 and #3 are likely important from an ADA compliance perspective. You don't really need a scientific study to show that people who communicate with lip-reading can't do so when the people speaking are wearing a mask, or that people with mental health issues with wearing a mask have issues with wearing a mask.

  • Thanks for this answer. Would you mind moving number 4 below number 1, then you can say, 1 and 2 has to do with a personal opinion from a doctor, and 3 and 4 are for ADA-related reasons. Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 15:49
  • @HeavenlyHarmony I'd rather not change the order, since that's the order in the original source I'm quoting from.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 15:49
  • Another thing that's important is that just because you can't wear a mask doesn't mean you can then go into a particular place without a mask. A store has to respect your disability, but they might do that by bringing you a curbside order after you browse on their website, or offering you free delivery. Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 19:43
  • I read somewhere that there are masks with windows so that you can see the person's lips without them having to remove the mask. Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 5:57

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