To wear or not to wear a mask: Gov. Mills mandates and experts agree

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 4:16 PM EDT
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Governor Mills says she'll be signing a new Executive Order soon that will require public-facing businesses in coastal Maine counties and four cities to enforce a face coverings mandate.

She initially issued the order in May that face coverings be worn out in public.

She says now businesses in particular areas need to back it up.

The mandate focuses on Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York Counties.

It will also cover Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston and Auburn.

Requiring face masks has been a Constitutional debate amid the pandemic.

Some business owners are worried that turning away customers for not wearing them could result in lawsuits.

TV5 spoke with an attorney for Disability Rights Maine.

He says businesses can ask if a person has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.

He'd advise not to ask specifics about the condition.

And as long as reasonable accommodations are made, a business can refuse to allow someone in if they aren't wearing a face covering.

"If they want to stay on the right side of the law they should engage in a process with that person whereby they say, 'Are there ways we can give you access to the goods and services that we're providing in another way?' So, just because you say you have a disability doesn't mean you get to walk into any place without a mask on," says Atlee Reilly, Attorney for Disability Rights Maine.

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Governor Mills said Wednesday the new policy should be "no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service."

She didn't say when she'd order it.

In recent weeks, other states across the country have implemented similar measures.

Health experts agree that wearing masks or other face coverings in public helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

According to the CDC -- people who should not wear masks are:

*Children under the age of two

*Anyone who has trouble breathing

*Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

"The list of verified, diagnosed medical conditions that would positively, categorically preclude somebody from wearing a mask, a face covering, for a short period of time, is quite small," says Head of the Maine CDC Dr. Nirav Shah.

Dr. Jarvis of Northern Light Health says facial structure issues due to surgery and certain trauma are two other recognized reasons in healthcare for not wearing a mask.

He said, "We have some people who unfortunately were the victims of violence where violence was particularly around their neck or their face and from a psychological standpoint wearing masks may precipitate some flashbacks to those events."

Dr. Jarvis said for individuals who have trouble breathing while wearing a mask, it takes some getting used to, "All face masks do allow airflow. I think it's just the unusual feeling of having something covering your mouth and your nose."

Dr. Jarvis recommends doing some deep breathing exercises before putting on your mask and says take a break from it.

"No one says you have to wear it 24/7. If you're in a situation where you're not near anyone else and you can maintain good social distance take that face covering off for a little bit," he says.

Dr. Jarvis says in time you'll start to feel more comfortable, "Just like wearing shoes and shirts into restaurants we'll feel more comfortable wearing our face coverings into every establishment."

Dr. Jarvis says wearing a mask should now be considered a common courtesy to others.

"It's like holding the door open for somebody. It's like saying bless you after they sneeze. These are just common courtesies that we need to have."

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