The city issued a public service announcement on Monday reminding residents that wearing masks is crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The move came after the city introduced exemption cards for people who are unable to wear masks for medical reasons. The cards are being handed out at city recreation centres with no screening process. 

Mask exemptions

The city said it's calling on residents to follow the honour system while requesting an exemption because requiring a doctor’s note to obtain the cards is not a good use of healthcare resources.

The cards would allow people to not to wear masks in public places as per the city’s mandatory mask bylaw.

The bylaw already has some exceptions, including for children under two, people who are unable to put on or remove a face mask without assistance, or while engaging in activities that would require the removal of a face covering like having a passport photo taken or dental work performed.

Marilynn Moisan has health issues that cause her breathing difficulties. Despite that, she said she’s able to wear a mask, although it has taken her some time to find one that works for her.

“Because of asthma, I have a lot of triggers. Gastrointestinal disease also causes problems with your breathing, but masks don’t affect that. If you have a mask with canvas or denim, yes it will, but when it’s a cotton mask – no,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“If you can’t handle a cotton mask, there’s absolutely no problem wearing a disposable mask if you have breathing problems.”

Moisan said there should be more messaging on different kinds of mask options and sizes.

“I think AHS dropped the ball on that. They said, ‘Yes buy masks.’ But they don’t tell anybody what kind of masks to buy.”

The city handed out 1,289 exemption cards on Saturday and Sunday and an additional 375 on Monday morning, but despite the new exemptions, the city said peace officers have observed 80 per cent compliance of the new bylaw.