Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
A Brandon resident has claimed he has been refused entry to several local businesses for not wearing a mask, despite being medically exempt from having to wear one.
Dave Federowich, 46, said that he is unable to safely wear a mask due to PTSD. Covering his face triggers flashbacks to traumatic experiences, which can cause him to react violently.
Federowich previously worked in corrections but has been on medical leave for six years. He said his PTSD is connected to a workplace incident.
Non-medical masks have been mandatory in most public spaces in Brandon since a public health order issued on Aug. 24 placed Prairie Mountain Health under a level orange restricted COVID-19 designation.
The public health order does not require certain groups of people to follow the mandatory mask rule, including children under the age of five, those who cannot put on or remove a mask without the help of another person, and those with medical conditions unrelated to COVID-19 that prevent them from safely wearing a mask.
A doctor’s note is required to receive a medical exemption from the mandatory mask rule.
According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, "Writing a medical note is deemed the provision of medical care and must adhere to the requirements of good medical care in the practice of medicine as defined in the regulations and Standards of Practice. ... Members are expected to provide patients with appropriate education and guidance on mask-wearing in alignment with current Manitoba Public Health Guidelines."
Federowich said that he had no difficulties obtaining an exemption from his doctor.
"My family doctor knew my history so she knew what was coming and essentially granted the exemption based on knowing my history," he said.
Including among those locations he has been denied entry have included banks and grocery stores, despite, he said, presenting his doctor’s note as evidence he cannot wear a mask for safety reasons.
Federowich described one incident where an employee at a business said that they were going to get the manager to help deal with the situation and instead returned with security guards. He said he has even had businesses call the police on him because he was not wearing a mask.
"All I’m equipped with is my doctor’s note. However, I have been in touch with public health and I don’t need to provide any proof for it, as long as I say I have a medical exemption," Federowich said. "The business or service provider is just supposed to accept that — it’s an honour system."
The only places that he said have been accommodating are his doctor’s office and the place where he gets his hair cut.
Federowich said he has been forthcoming with businesses about his situation and even talked to the head of one grocery store in Brandon. He was told the store was not sure how to handle the situation and later that he would need to use a curbside pickup service to do his shopping.
"It’s forced me to just stay at home (and) become basically homebound," Federowich said, adding it has had a negative impact on his mental health.
Part of the treatment for his PTSD is overcoming social anxiety by being out in the world around people, but Federowich said he has lost years of progress and hard work by being unable to go to many places outside of his home.
"The way we all felt back in March when we were locked down — that’s how I feel right now, that I’m being locked down by society."
He believes the government could improve the situation for people like him by doing a better job of educating business owners and the general public about mask exemption rules and by providing those exempt with additional documentation besides just a doctor’s note to prove their status.
Overall, Federowich said that he wishes people would take time to put themselves in other shoes and treat them with kindness.
"I think people need to take the time to consider that person’s situation instead of just jumping to conclusions and criticizing."
Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Spencer Day said he has not received any reports of businesses refusing entry to people who have shown proof of a medical exemption.
In response to an inquiry, a Manitoba Health spokesperson offered the following written statement that indicated chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin "has indicated that it would be a medical decision, so it’s hard to come up with a list of conditions that would be exempt or not exempt. ... People would need to speak to their physician."
» Twitter: @emdashklatt
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