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Mandatory mask policies raise accessibility concerns for vulnerable populations

Last Updated Jul 2, 2020 at 12:05 pm EDT

FILE - In this Thursday, March 19, 2020 file photo, a mask lies on a lawn in Willowbrook, Ill. On Friday, June 26, 2020, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting that wearing face masks can cause fungal and bacterial pneumonia. There’s no evidence that normal use of face masks can cause fungal or bacterial infections. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

TORONTO — Experts and advocates say mandatory mask policies will only work if they’re backed up by efforts to provide access and education to vulnerable populations.

A rule requiring that commuters wear masks on Toronto’s public transit system came into effect today, and next week face coverings will be mandatory in indoor public settings such as stores and businesses.

Several other Ontario municipalities and the Quebec government are moving to implement similar policies with the aim of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Officials have promoted wearing masks in situations when physical distancing isn’t possible, but some have been reluctant to make them mandatory because of concerns about accessibility.

Jennifer Kwan, a family doctor and advocate for #Masks4Canada, says mask mandates are meant to be educational rather than punitive, and need to include exceptions for people who can’t wear masks for health reasons.

Infectious disease physician Isaac Bogoch is urging policymakers to pair these orders with a push to make masks accessible and easy-to-use for people who may lack the financial means or knowledge acquire them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2020.

The Canadian Press