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Pittsburgh-Area Doctors Say People Are Calling About Face Mask Exemption Notes

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Local doctors' offices are getting calls from patients about face masks.

People want a doctor's note to get them out of wearing a mask in public.

"A lot of them are trying to find a reason not to," says Dr. Brian Lamb, a primary care internist at the Allegheny Health Network. "We understand they're uncomfortable, they're hot, they're difficult to breathe in sometimes."

"That doesn't really give you a reason not to," Dr. Lamb added.

The CDC allows you to forgo a mask if you're younger than 2 years old, you're unconscious, incapacitated or you have trouble breathing.

"People who have severe respiratory problems, people who have COPD, people who have severe asthma, people who wear oxygen," Dr. Lamb said. "If you can't wear your mask in public because of respiratory symptoms, you're high risk. And technically, you should be still avoiding public interaction with people."

Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates Allergist Dr. James Deangelo won't write an exemption note but will write to a patient's employer recommending accommodations like working from home.

But that's not always possible.

"When we get into difficulty in some occupations where people are food handlers, employees in a doctor's office, dental office. In that case, you can't have reasonable accommodations. And in that case, the only option is for them to seek disability," Deangelo said.

He acknowledges the mask makes some people anxious.

"That does not allow that individual to endanger others," he says.

"People come in and say, 'I'm not afraid of the virus. If I get it, I get it.' What they don't realize is, wearing the mask isn't just for them. It's for keeping their family members safe, their friends safe, keeping the stranger in the store safe. So it's really more altruistic for everyone to wear their mask," says Dr. Lamb.

One suggestion Dr. Deangelo makes for his patients who don't like wearing masks is using the clear face shields, which offer some protection against droplets and against spreading your own droplets.

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