UTICA, N.Y. ---Major stores, like Walmart and Aldi, announced this week that masks are now required in all stores. This has been mandatory in New York for months, with exceptions for some people with health conditions.
But now many are unsure if they must follow the store policies, or state guidance that excludes some people from the requirement.
Oneida County Director of Public Health Phyllis Ellis said the stores do have the right to deny people with exemptions, if they believe they pose a health hazard to those inside.
According to the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses should find ways to modify policies to accommodate people with certain conditions who cannot tolerate masks.
- Allow a person to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or full face shield instead of a face mask;
- Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
- Allow customers to order by phone with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
- Allow a person to wait in a car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted; or
- Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.
Rome resident Francis Menard has a doctor's note for his breathing condition. Menard says he presents this note, while maskless, to employees upon entering a store. Menard said for the most part, they don't give him trouble.
"I was walking around for a couple of minutes and then a manager comes up to me and says you have to put a mask on. And I said no, by law, I don't have to I have a breathing problem," said Menard.
Other exemptions, which must be diagnosed by a doctor, could include:
- Severe anxiety
The Department of Justice is also warning the public that some mask exemption documents could be falsified. The DOJ reported in June they're aware of cards and other documents bearing the Department of Justice seal and claiming that individuals are exempt from face mask requirements are fraudulent.
Ellis states there are legitimate health excuses for people to not wear a mask. But encourages those people to seek other options instead of going out in public.
"Who else can go for me. If I had an illness or a respiratory illness, I'm at high-risk, number one. So work with your friends and family on who could go to the store for you in such a situation," said Ellis.
Another option is the use of online grocery shopping apps for delivery or curbside pickup.
Under the current NYS Executive order masks are required in public.