people who claim they can’t wear masks, coworker’s Disney vacation, and other questions about COVID-19 and work

My mailbox is overflowing with COVID-19 questions, so let’s tackle a bunch of them at once.

1. Patients who claim they can’t wear masks to their appointments

I’ve seen a post circulating through social media stating that businesses cannot require customers to wear masks under the ADA. It says that if asked to wear a mask, you should cite the ADA protections against individuals with disabilities, and that by law, the employees cannot ask you to disclose any medical information about the nature of the disability. The point of the post clearly is to imply that you have a disability even when you don’t, so that you won’t be forced to wear a face mask.

I manage medical offices and my husband is a private practice dentist, so we both have strict masking and temperature screening requirements at our places of work, both for our staff members’ safety, as well as the safety of other patients. Any suggestions on how to field this particular issue when it inevitably comes up?

Yeah, there is a move in some circles to try to use the ADA as a cudgel against mask requirements for political reasons rather than because of actual disabilities, and it’s crap; that’s not how the ADA works. In fact, the Justice Department had to issue an alert saying, “The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations.”

What the ADA does do is require that businesses consider reasonable modifications to a face mask policy for people with disabilities. That might mean allowing the person to wear a loose face covering or face shield instead of a mask, allowing them to wait in their car until their appointment time and be called when you’re available to see them, or offering appointments by phone or video. You do not need to simply waive the policy altogether and allow them to come in maskless and risk infecting others. (Here’s an excellent brief on this.)

So — post notices at your entrances explaining that all patients must wear masks and that you will refuse entry otherwise, with a note about your procedure for handling requests for accommodations under the ADA. List some of the possible accommodations, so you’re signaling that there is in fact a process and insincere pushback won’t result in whatever easy capitulation some people are envisioning. Then if someone shows up without a mask, reiterate your policy, have masks on hand to offer them, and explain you can’t serve them if they don’t comply. If someone claims they need accommodations, go to your process at that point. (You should also have your staff explain the policy on the phone when making appointments so no one is taken by surprise.)

And as always, check your state laws too since different states have different guidance on this.

2. My coworker wants to come back to work … after an extended Disney vacation

The company I work for is considered essential, so we have been open and operating for the entire pandemic. My bosses have been really great about handling this — though we’re all still in the office, we were separated away from each other, and masks are required when leaving “your” area, or using common areas like the kitchen and bathroom. There are only about 15 of us, and the building itself isn’t large, but we’ve made it work. I share a large warehouse office with one coworker, and we opted to utilize a second refrigerator and microwave, to limit everyone’s exposure in the main part of the office. For the most part, things have gone smoothly for us.

My issue is this — a coworker, Jane (who admittedly I don’t come into direct contact with often, if ever), is on vacation in Florida, a current hot state. The state we live in is one of only a few that is lowering the infection rate, due mostly to early and rigorous measures, and we have a travel advisory for many states, Florida included. Yesterday we were told that, instead of keeping Jane home for two weeks after her vacation, our bosses wanted to bring her back to work and isolate her in an unused office in the building. My officemate and I have several concerns about the safety of this, as do at least two other coworkers.

Even if she stays in this particular office, she will still be using the restroom and kitchen areas. The plan I’ve heard is that she is to wipe down the entire stall and sink she used after visiting the bathroom. This seems … unlikely. Jane will also come into the building through the front door, so will that area be completely disinfected after she walks through?

While I am not trying to make this a personal attack against Jane, I do question her judgement regarding compliance with social distancing rules. First, I think going to a known hot spot on an optional vacation is irresponsible. Secondly, she is sharing a vacation home with her son who lives in Texas, another hot spot state. Thirdly, her younger son was tested for COVID and came back positive. But she came into work and acted as if life was normal in the time before his test came back, and didn’t warn management or her immediate coworkers that someone in her home could possibly have the virus.

I am not usually a “boat rocker” — I go with the flow on many decisions. But this has me anxious. How should I broach this with our manager? Do I go to HR with this? I’d like to tackle this with a few other coworkers, but that somehow feels a bit … aggressive? I’d love to get your take on this.

If Jane is truly isolating in her office, this could maybe be okay — but it doesn’t sound like she can be depended on to do that. Based on her cavalier approach to safety so far, it’s reasonable to worry you’ll come upon her hanging out in the kitchen or otherwise not sequestered in her office. I’m curious about why your office, which previously has been vigilant, is having her come back in immediately. Is there a work need for her to be there in person? It doesn’t sound like it, if she’s going to be confined in her office and not interacting face-to-face with anyone anyway.

Anyway, yes, you and your coworkers should speak up. When a group of you share the same concerns about something so serious, it’s not aggressive to speak as a group. The alternative is for each of you to have your own meetings with HR, but there’s nothing wrong with all of you having a single meeting and explaining you all share the same serious concerns. Point out that current public health guidelines say that Jane should work from home for two weeks after her trip. Note that you’d have this concern about anyone, but you’re even more concerned in this case because Jane has already shown she’s not taking precautions seriously. Mention that she continued coming to work even while waiting on her son’s test results, knowing the whole time she could be infecting others — and note that his test was indeed positive. Say you’re not comfortable with the current plan and ask that it be reconsidered (or perhaps if that’s not possible, that anyone concerned be permitted to work from home for Jane’s first two weeks back).

Read an update to this letter here.

3. My staff has to return to the office while I’m staying at home

I am considered medically vulnerable to COVID-19 and my doctor has said that I should telework if at all possible, given my high risk factors. I also manage 11 people.

I completely trust the people I manage and am fully capable of managing well from a distance (I’ve been doing it for months now) but it looks like my office is reopening. Because I have doctor certification and I am faculty, I can work from home but my staff can’t once we reopen unless they are also medically vulnerable.

I am advocating for them as much as possible and will do everything I can to make sure they are protected, but how can I address the morale and other issues that come from me and a couple of others not being able to be in the building when they are required to be? (Even though they have been doing great work from home for the last few months, the primary role of some of my staff is to keep the space open for study space for students, so as long as the students are there, they need to be there.)

The fewer people who are in your office, the safer it is for the people who are required to be there.

If you’re comfortable with it, it might be worth sharing that you’re staying home because you’re high-risk so your staff knows it’s not just a matter of you being faculty versus staff. The latter is a recipe for resentment, but the former will make sense to anyone reasonable.

4. Should I ask my employee to do her performance review in person, even though we’re working from home?

I am a new manager, who started up my team just after COVD shut everything down (terrible timing!). My company has been very conservative about COVID response and most of us are still working at home. In fact, I haven’t seen my direct report in person since we started. It is time to deliver mid-year reviews. It is better to do it in person, on opposite sides of a conference room table with masks, or with a call/video chat? This is an approved reason to meet in person and I like the idea of finally meeting my direct reports in person and watching body language during the review. On the other hand, the mask will cover up everything but the eyes. Culturally, we don’t do video chats often. (My review was a phone call, but I have good rapport with my manager.)

It’s not worth risking infecting someone or being infected yourself — or stressing out your employee — just so you can be in-person for a performance review. Use video or a phone call. (Phone is totally fine if video isn’t something you normally use.) This is no different than if you worked across the country from each other, which is increasingly common.

If your employee is being at all cautious about the virus and you do it in-person, she’s not going to be at her best during the conversation anyway; she’s going to be nervous and resentful about having to risk her health unnecessarily (on top of the weirdness of meeting one’s boss in person for the first time in a high-stakes conversation). The phone will work fine!

5. Should I tell the board that our CEO isn’t taking COVID seriously?

I work for a nonprofit that has handled COVID pretty badly. Our CEO compares it to the flu and says we can’t live in fear (despite a huge spike in local cases). He grudgingly allowed us to work from home during our state’s stay-at-home order, but badgered us relentlessly the whole time (eg emailing parents that “every minute spent caring for your child is a minute not working for our organization” and calling us “disrespectful” and “inconsiderate” for continuing to work remotely when some people couldn’t). To be clear, 100% of our department’s work can be done remotely. When I pushed back gently with concerns about reopening the office too soon, he insisted he couldn’t trust my work (I’ve been getting stellar reviews) and required that I come in a full two weeks before the work-from-home policy officially ended so he could keep an eye on me. We recently had 2 employees out sick with COVID symptoms; they’re getting tested but meanwhile we’re all still at the office. In short, it’s been stressful, demoralizing, and tense.

Nobody is wearing a mask in our cramped office, and some of us have to travel all over the state, which freaks me out. I recently overheard him yelling at a senior staff member that he wishes we would all “just shut up” about our health concerns and “trust him” to make the right calls. We are all too scared of retaliation to push back any more.

Our board is fairly distant from the day-to-day operations, and I recently found out that one member of the board doesn’t even know we are back at the office! I have one foot out the door at this point; I have been coming home in stressful tears every day. But on my way out, what is my responsibility here? Do I somehow alert the board to the way our CEO has been running things? Do I speak honestly at my exit interview? Or just keep my head down and finish out my time? We work with vulnerable communities and I’m so nervous that we will be the next COVID cluster.

I am sleeping badly and feel overwhelmed and unable to see clearly through all this. Any advice would be really welcome.

Please tell the board! Include all the details that you did here — this is horrifying.

That said, there is risk to doing that — it could mean you won’t get a good reference from the CEO (hopefully there are others there who would speak to your work though?) but if your sense is that the board would care and possibly intervene, you could do a lot of good and potentially even save lives by telling them.

6. Water, COVID, and OSHA

I work in academia. My institution has decided to shut down all water fountains (fair) and water bottle refill stations on campus, for both students and staff. We are expected to “bring what we need” to campus for our eight-hour workday or purchase bottled water in the cafeteria. Fridges have also been removed for students, and likely in many offices too. The only other option is bathroom sinks, but (1) there’s no setting for water temperature (it’s all lukewarm) and (2) I’m not sure it’s potable (yay Michigan). I understand that this is an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, but is this legal? I’ve checked OSHA, but I don’t know how that works in the middle of a global pandemic.

OSHA regulations require that “an adequate supply of potable water shall be provided in all places of employment,” and employers cannot require employees to pay for that water. However, bathroom water would be considered to fulfill that requirement if it’s safe for drinking, so whether or not it is would be a pretty key question here.

If that bathroom water isn’t safe to drink, it’s definitely worth raising with your employer. Start from the assumption that they weren’t deliberately violating OSHA and just don’t realize the requirements, but will of course want to fix it once they do know. (Turning off water fountains is one of the recommendations right now, so they likely need to provide water coolers or other bottled water.)

{ 504 comments… read them below }

  1. ducklet*

    I’m curious about providing drinking water from the customer-at-a-gym perspective. The gym we go to re-opened with required masks, but the drinking fountains are off-limits. I’m personally not bothered bc I can bring enough of my own water for a 1.5 hr workout, but would this be affected under the OSHA things Alison describes?

    1. Brett*

      My comment fell off for some reason.
      Local health regulations would govern providing water to customers. In most cases, those regulations are currently modified to provide exemptions from this. (For us locally, they also currently forbid reusable water bottles from being brought in by customers, so we have to use sealed bottles of water for the gym right now.)

      1. Evan Þ.*

        That sounds strange to me – why would they forbid customers from bringing in reusable bottles for themselves?

        1. Oxford Comma*

          Probably because you can’t count on the customers not touching the lip of the bottle to the water coolers/drinking fountains.

          1. Alex*

            That would make sense if they were preventing customers from refilling their bottles at the gym but they seem to be banning people from taking a reusable bottle even if they have filled it at home (or somewhere else such as their workplace) before arriving at the gym.

            1. mlk*

              If you’re having customers wash/sanitize their hands upon entering the gym, they’d also need to wash/sanitize a water bottle that they’re bringing in.

              1. Alex*

                It doesn’t seem to suggest that they have to buy the sealed bottle on the premises though. There is just as much chance of a sealed bottle from multipack containing the virus on its surface as there is of a reusable bottle.

              2. Hazel*

                But if they’re allowed to bring in a non-reusable water bottle, wouldn’t that, too, need to be sanitized? And I don’t think drinking fountains would be turned on.

                If I were going to the gym, I would have no problem wiping hand sanitizer all over my reusable water bottle (or washing it with soap and water).

                I may be missing something because this seems so clear to me…

                1. AdAgencyChick*

                  If a single-use water bottle hasn’t been opened, then at least you know there are no mouth germs on the neck of the bottle when the person brings it into the gym.

    2. E.J.G.*

      Hearing about cases on here always helps me as a new, young manager. I also have a situation I would like to throw out to the comment crew for feedback. This is my first time commenting/posting.

      I work in a small specialist office with 1 doctor and 2 coworkers. We take turns traveling with the doctor to another office 2 hours away where we see 15-20 patients a day. The week before last Coworker A and the doctor went to the other office and worked a full day. That night, the doctor was sick, with a fever and other unknown symptoms. Then she and coworker A worked another full day with patients. They both then worked with me, closely, all day on Thursday. There were times when we did not have on masks (to eat, drink water) and our office is so small that they make have come within 6 feet.
      The following day (a Friday) coworker A stays home sick, with a fever. She goes to urgent care and gets a covid19 test. By that time the doctor has fully recovered, 24 hours with job fever and no symptoms.
      Coworker A’s results come in on Monday – positive. The soonest myself and coworker B could get tested is tuesday, so we did. Then we stayed home to quarantine or worked behind a locked door in the office with no patients. The doctor did not get tested. She went to the other office 2 hours away by herself and worked 2 full days with patients. She is still working with patients. She got an antibody test. I dont know the results, or if she even has them. I go back to work tomorrow under threat of losing my job if I dont work with patients on thursday regardless of whether I have symptoms or results back.

      1. OP#1*

        OP# 1 here- That seems highly irresponsible on the part of the physician to put her patients in harm’s way in such a reckless fashion. Since you have had a direct work exposure, you should absolutely be allowed to stay off work until your results come back. It sounds like she has knowingly exposed dozens of patients, and it doesn’t seem like she cares about that.

        I suppose if you are under threat of losing your job over it, please closely monitor your symptoms, take your temperature multiple times per day, practice the best hand hygiene you ever have in your whole life, and don’t remove your mask and face shield. I’m sorry.

        1. E.J.G.*

          Literally just got my results back-negative! I am so glad but at the same time worried my boss is going to be so angry and justify her terrible behavior over the past 2 weeks. Oh, well. At least I’m fine!!!

        2. Zombeyonce*

          Yes, the doctor needs to be reported to whatever governing body they report to. This is not just irresponsible, but dangerous and unethical and she’s very likely putting many patients and everyone they come into contact with at risk. So many antibody tests have erroneous results so I wouldn’t even trust that if she says them came back negative.

          1. Cj*

            That was going to be my comment – that there are a lot of false negative tests. I’ve seen different percentages (I suppose because there are so many different kinds of tests), but some articles quote up to 30% of negatives are incorrect. Especially when working with patients and having been around somebody with a positive test, I’d insist on a second test.

            Anybody know if there is a law against firing you for this? At the very least, you should be eligible for unemployment (although with the $600 federal payment expiring and about to be slashed, and not knowing where the OP lives, I don’t know if they could live on that).

            It might be hard to find a new job right now, but I certainly would not want to work for an employer this caviler about the virus, especially being in the health field.

          2. bluephone*

            Oh my god this makes me so angry and I’m so sorry for the question asker!!! My county was particularly hard hit by COVID early on, primarily because a pediatrician had traveled to a hotspot in late February (when COVID was already ramping up in the US), didn’t tell anyone or isolate himself when he came back, and then gave it to like, 20 patients and their families who in turn gave it to their classmates, neighbors, relatives, etc etc etc. Schools have been closed since before St. Patrick’s Day because of that, and parents only had about 12 hours’ notice that it was happening.
            I don’t want to start anything but if I had your doctor’s name, I’d totally be dropping an anonymous call to the medical license board and your state’s department of health :-(

      2. Anonforthisone*

        I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such an irresponsible, disrespectful boss. I would seriously consider reporting this to your local health department – someone should be notifying any patients who came in contact with Coworker A and probably the doctor. If I were her patient, I would be livid.

        I’m fuzzy on the rules for this but there’s FMLA leave for people who need time off to quarantine – if the specialist you work for is employed by a larger health system and the FMLA applies to them, your job might be protected.

        I hope you can find a new job where your coworkers aren’t willing gamble with other people’s health like this.

      3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        ” That night, the doctor was sick, with a fever and other unknown symptoms. Then she and coworker A worked another full day with patients”

        W T F.

        1. Dream Jobbed*

          Exactly. Doctor should be reported to medical licensing board for this and trying to force you to work after exposure. And I hope you are in a place where you can start looking for a better boss. What a horror show!

      4. The Tattler*

        This situation is tailor-made to report to your local health authorities and state medical board. Do it anonymously if need be.

      5. soon to be former fed really*

        Yesterday, I had a disturbing encounter with a nurse practitioner at the cardiology department of a major medical provider in my area. My former NP of eight years retired, and this was my first visit with this one. She did not have on a mask in the examining room. I asked her if she was comfortable going without one (I had on two two-layer all cotton masks with a layer of oly-fun in between), and she said yes, because she wasn’t sick. Other comments revealed that she was definitely a covid minimizer. She asked if I would be more comfortable if she wore one and after I said yes, put one on. I’m assertive, but waht about those who aren’t? I completed the exam, but was definitely thinking this can’t be happening and although she was very competent, no way could I continue seeing her! Not only this, but upon entering the office, temperature checks were being taken with an oral thermometer without using disposible covers. I was told it was cleaned with alcohol between uses. No, just no.

        I spoke to the practice manage after I was done and told her all of this. She confirmed that the clinic has a mandatory mask policy for all staff and was appalled by this NP’s actions and said probe covers were supposed to be used. Don’t think I’ll be returning. We are vunerable cardiac patients, most are older!

        So yes, covid minimizers in health care settings are a thing, as sickening as it is, and OP should not hesitate to do whatever they can to address the disgusting and risky situation in their office. No job is worth your life and health or that of others. It is especially immorral that patients do not have full disclosure regarding these lackadaisical practices.

        For those who minimize the covid-19 pandemic outbreak by quoting low overall rates of infection and death, I say that’s the point, to keep it that way! By the time the rates rise enough for them to think it’s a serious matter, it will be too late to fight it.

        Somebody please wake me when the nightmare is over.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          I’m considering making a report to the health authorities as The Tattler suggested, although I want to give the practice manager an opportunity to correct the situation. There simply must be zero tolerance for obeying safe practices in a health care setting.

        2. Anonymosity*

          Not only this, but upon entering the office, temperature checks were being taken with an oral thermometer without using disposible covers.

          NO NO NO NO NO NO.

  2. Brett*

    Having recently been to the dentist, my dentists had masks _and_ face shields on hand. I think they expected that some patients might have jaw pain that would make wearing masks extremely uncomfortable, so they had the face shields ready for when they waited in the lobby or walked back to the exam room. Since all of the staff was walking around with face shields too, that probably made it feel less strange for patients to wear face shields.

    1. Anon Anon*

      That’s a good idea. I know one of my friends who has a child who has sensory processing issues, has found some baseball caps with a shield attached to help cover his face, because he really struggles with wearing a mask.

      1. Brett*

        There are also a lot of groups offering free 3d printed face masks right now. Some of them are pretty cool looking.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        That’s a cool idea. I wonder if something like that may work for toddlers/infants since they can’t wear masks.

        1. Anon Anon*

          I’m not sure. What I’ve discovered is that most people who really do have issues wearing a mask tend to try and be proactive find alternatives. I have another friend who is has hearing loss and she lip reads. Masks are a major issue for her. She developed a button that she wears to make sure to communicate with others she’s got hearing loss and she has to communicate now through writing, etc.

          It’s the people who are against wearing masks who I find aren’t that interested in finding an alternative. And so having procedures about the types of accommodations that can be offered I think is super helpful. Because people are taking advantage.

          1. Gaia*

            A bit off topic but related to lip reading. My nephew is deaf and so when his state issued mask guidance that took lip reading into account, I was actually really impressed because previous guidance hadn’t. Until I read it.

            The guidance said deaf people weren’t required to wear masks due to the need to lip read. There is so much wrong with that. First, not all deaf people read lips (my nephew, for one). Second, how does the deaf person not wearing a mask help them read the lips of someone wearing a mask?

            I get what they were going for (that you don’t have to wear a mask when communicating with someone that utilizes lip reading for communication), but that’s not what they wrote nor did anyone catch that ridiculous error. Sigh.

            1. The Tattler*

              The guidance said deaf people weren’t required to wear masks due to the need to lip read. There is so much wrong with that.

              Third, deaf people can still spread the virus, and their need to lip read does not outweigh everyone else’s life. I get that it’s inconvenient, but make do by writing things down.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Handing a notepad and pencil back and forth is more likely to spread the virus than carefully removing your mask for a brief time.

                1. JSPA*

                  Or do what everyone does when they’re not face to face, and text back and forth. You can share a phone number with a sequential show of fingers. Or do buy on line, pick up in parking lot; we’re all flashing signs through the window and all playing Covid Charades.

                  That said, a lot of places are making exceptions for a helper, friend, household member (etc) of the deaf person to help translate.

                2. Librarian1*

                  No it isn’t. All the available data shows that surface transmission of this virus is very low. It’s mostly transmitted through the air by people breathing near each other.

          2. JKP*

            I swap back and forth: mask when I’m working with hearing clients. I have a clear face shield when I’m working with someone who needs to read lips or sign. I ordered a clear mask so I wouldn’t need to swap, but I’m still waiting to receive it.

            I have some clients where a mask triggers a panic attack, so they’ll wear it for a few minutes in the common areas, then pull it down when we’re alone, and I disinfect everything after they leave. I have air filters in each room that remove viruses and bacteria from the air.

            There do need to be some accommodations for people who have legitimate reasons preventing them from wearing a mask.

            1. No Longer Looking*

              I’m happy with any form of accommodation for them that does not put the rest of the crowd at higher risk.

              1. Chris too*

                My best friend has severe hearing loss, and can’t lip read as much as usual as most are wearing masks. It took her more time than she wanted to find a mask she could actually wear because most of them were tugging too much on her hearing aids.

          3. Mayflower*

            There are masks sold on Etsy that have a clear non-fogging rectangle in the middle, allowing for lips to be seen. According to reviews, “non-fogging” works ok.

        2. Chinook*

          Are you sure infants and toddlers should wear masks, though? In Canada, the exception is given for those under the age of 3 (probably because of how they wouldn’t stay on or would be so filled with drool or snot). I could see getting an almost 3 year old to start wearing one but only for practice and without the expectation that it actually tays in place.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            Yes, it’s not recommended for kids under two because there’s a strangulation risk.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            I said in my comment that infants/toddlers can’t wear masks – I was musing on whether or not face shields custom made for their smaller faces would help since they don’t touch the face, but wrap around it instead.

            1. Colette*

              It might work for some kids; based on trying to keep a hat on a toddler, some kids wouldn’t be able to tolerate it. But in general, masks aren’t recommended for people who can’t take it off themselves, and I suspect face shields would be the same. With an infant, it could be hurting or possibly blocking their airway, and they wouldn’t be able to communicate that there is a problem.

              And it seems that face shields are less effective in this case, so even if it was possible, it might not be worth the hassle.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                That makes sense. I just hate the idea of the little ones being exposed with no real protection other than being kept indoors 24/7. I know my five-year-old niece – who does go outside on occasion, but with a mask – is miserable not being able to go out and play with her little friends. She can only go out on walks with her mom and dad. She’s tired of them and her baby sister, lol.

                1. somethingchronic*

                  The science behind mask-wearing shows that your mask wearing protects other people more than it protects you yourself.

                2. The Tattler*

                  The science behind mask-wearing shows that your mask wearing protects other people more than it protects you yourself.

                  The science says that mask wearing protects BOTH other people and yourself — the former more than the latter, but definitely both.

                3. Chinook*

                  Having just had a 9 month old nephew who was exposed (in post-op by a nurse who later tested positive) and caused his entire family to be quarantined (and in Alberta ig is legal, not suggested), I can say that this is hardest on the parents who are also stuck inside. The 3 year old brother is starting to go stir crazy but it is the adults who miss other adults more.

                  But, even though the risk is miniscule, every adult appreciates the caution being shown by the hospital because there are still some unknowns when it comes to transmission.

                4. Taniwha Girl*

                  For little babies who are in a carrier, there are clear coverings that go over the stroller meant to protect them from rain.

                  That doesn’t help them play with others, but since the risk of infection is so much lower outdoors, the real difficulty for children is social distancing, not masks/shields.

              2. Name of Requirement*

                A face shield doesn’t carry the same risk for a little one that a mask can.

                1. Colette*

                  Or protection.

                  There’s a lot of variation in kids; some will be fine with it, others will not. And you can’t half-mandate something. Would face shields be OK on kids who can’t hold up their own head? Those learning to roll over? The kid who runs into stuff all the time? The non-verbal kid who can’t/won’t tell you it’s rubbing? I don’t know the answer. For some kids they might be OK; for others, they very much would not.

              3. Double A*

                Yeah, what’s so hard about young toddlers is you can’t really explain why they need it. It’s been a very slow process to get my daughter used to hats (her first opinion at about 4 months was, “No hats!”); she’s almost 22 months and I JUST managed to get her to wear pigtails for the first time. I really don’t think I’ll be able to get her into a mask by the time she’s 2, but I also just don’t take her anywhere where masks are required.

              4. soon to be former fed really*

                I have read quite a bit about masks, and considered why, if it keeps particles in, why doesn’t it keep them out in an equivalent fashion? Whenever I hear that it protects others but not yourself, I just’s think it’s illogical. The higher the filtration level, the better protection for all involved.

                1. Anonymosity*

                  It does, but since it’s not airtight, then some particles could theoretically get in. But that’s more likely to occur with aerosolized particles. Masking is meant to take care of the larger respiratory droplets from speaking and breathing, which are the primary carriers of the virus, and social distancing to keep any strays from landing.

                  So to maximize safety for everyone, we all wear masks and stay away from each other.

          3. 2 Cents*

            Cuomo made the rule ages 2 and up, apparently forgetting toddlers rarely keep their normal clothes and shoes on, much less a mask

            1. Gaia*

              I have to say, I’ve actually been very impressed at how often I see very young children wearing their masks. Not all, and many are clearly unamused, but a fair number. That is something I did not expect and I imagine it is relief to their parents.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                My five-year-old niece wears her masks (my mom made her a bunch of cute ones out of Trolls cloth fabric), and she doesn’t take them off until she’s back in the house. In fact, she chastises her parents if she sees them not wearing their masks in public, even when it’s just when they’re in their cars.

                My brother told me and my mom about an incident a few days ago when he took her to McDonalds, and they were in the drive thru, so my brother didn’t put a mask on because he doesn’t wear one when driving. Well, my niece told him, “Daddy, you need to put your mask on,” and he said he told her he would, but then the line moved forward so he drove ahead. My niece then snapped and said, “So you’re really gonna just keep driving without a mask?” He said he promptly put one on so she would leave him alone.

                1. Gaia*

                  I love that she put him right in his place. Hahaha. I feel like I would like your niece.

                2. Diahann Carroll*

                  @Gaia Ha! Everyone does until she starts lecturing them about their life choices.

              2. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

                My 3 year old loves his mask because grown ups wear masks and babies like his 1 year old brother can’t.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  My five-year-old niece likes her masks for the same reason – they make her feel more grown up. And my mom was smart enough to make hers out of Trolls material and other kiddie appropriate designs that she thinks are cute.

              3. Tin Cormorant*

                My daughter actually loves it. (she’s 3.5) She has a small mask so she can be just like mommy and daddy whenever we go anywhere. The only time she wants to take it off is when she finds dandelions in the park and wants to blow the seeds off

                1. Anonymosity*

                  Little kids LOVE being like the grown-ups. This is why they make so many toddler toys like kitchens, brooms, tiny lawn mowers, etc.

              4. Patty Mayonnaise*

                Yeah, turns out when you have to stay in your house for four months and then say “we can go to the playground if you wear a mask,” small children will be surprisingly compliant.

              5. blackcat*

                There are tricks.
                1) comfort–masks that tie in back or have elastic that goes behind the head are generally more comfortable for little ones.
                2) exciting patterns. We have a variety of animal patterns. He’s more agreeable if he can chose between “cats” and “birds”

                1. whingedrinking*

                  Heck, I’m thirty-three and I’m definitely keener to wear a mask with a fun pattern than a plain black or white one. (My MIL made me a few different ones so I have the choice of galaxy, purple tie-dye, or kitties in bow ties.) I flash a thumbs-up to people I see in public wearing cool masks as well.

                2. Gaia*

                  Reading this, I feel like these are the “tricks” I’ve used for myself to be more okay with wearing masks hahahaha.

          4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Given that they are frequently an extra couple of feet from mouths/noses, but that distance is vertical, I wonder whether they are at greater or lesser risk from droplets.

            Rain or UV covers on strollers will provide a degree of protection but in a familiar form.

          5. HBJ*

            My 3-year-old (so obviously younger at the start of all this) wears one just fine. She thinks it’s fun, but she does touch and play with it a lot while wearing it. I do not put onE my 1.5-year-old, and there’s no way she’d keep any sort of shield/mask/whatever on.

        3. Mystery Bookworm*

          I imagine it would be difficult because they would likely touch them a lot and try to pull them off. They are tiny little germ machines!

        4. CaliUKexpat*

          I have a few bucket hats with shields for my newly-minted 3yo, and he loves them. He really struggled with masks, so when we swapped over we told him they were his special mask hats, so he gets super excited about wearing them and is much better about not fiddling with it. And his hair is super slippery, so they stay on 200% better than the masks ever did. So obviously depends on the kid, but they can be a good alternative.

    2. Artemesia*

      There is evidence that face shields alone without masks are actually MORE dangerous than nothing. Face shields WITH masks add extra protection but without masks, generally don’t.

      If someone ‘can’t wear a facemask’ as a regular client or customer then the option should be for them to deal on line and get delivery or counseling or whatever on line — not that they come in and spray their infected breath everywhere. A reasonable accommodation at a grocery store is to bring groceries out to the car for example not allow the mask deniers to rampage through the store breathing on everyone and putting them at risk. Health of everyone else is more important than the feefees of mask deniers who pretend they have medical issues.

      Someone who can’t wear one for reason of mouth or facial injury — trickier of course.

      1. Bippity*

        It’s also extremely important that the rights of disabled/seriously ill people who medically cannot wear masks are not thrown under a bus due to the selfishness of people who refuse to wear masks for “political” reasons.

      2. Bippity*

        I’m also concerned by the emotive language here, eg “spraying infected breath.” Most people are not infected unless you live in a hotspot, and you need to be in close contact with an infected person for a fairly lengthy amount of time to get infected (unless they sneeze on you).

        Covid is an incredibly serious global crisis which we should all take responsibility for. But responsibility is not the same as hysteria. I’ve seen a lot of worrying comments online acting as though masks magically make you immune, with people engaging in very risky behaviour just because they are wearing a mask. Or people acting like if someone not wearing a mask so much as glances at you, you’ll automatically catch it. This is based on magical thinking and not logic.

        My country (non US) handled COVID badly; masks were only made mandatory very recently, and for months the general public were told not to wear masks except for homemade ones because my country had PPE shortages and so medical grade masks were reserved for key workers like doctors. My city has low rates of covid now, despite the lack of masks. Even if you don’t wear a mask you can alleviate risk by practicing social distancing, not touching your face, and hand washing. The same things you can do to protect yourself from non-mask wearers, and the things everyone should be doing whether they are wearing a mask or not.

        1. Anonymosity*

          Not everyone you see is infected, sure, but we know COVID can be transmitted before symptoms appear, unlike SARS. You can’t tell by looking at an unmasked person if they’re infected. And they themselves may not even know. So it might be a little hyperbolic, but the risk is real.

    3. Artemesia*

      I read about an outbreak where ONLY the people in the office with face shields got infected — apparently the shields by themselves are not effective when there is COVID in the air — masks plus shields work well — shields alone don’t. If a person is infected then their aerosol easily spews beyond the shield whereas a mask would absorb it and if it is in the air then the shield doesn’t protect the person wearing it from breathing that aerosol although a mask is moderately effective. A shield is not a replacement for a mask but an adjunct to add to its effectiveness.

      And people who falsely claim to be unable to wear a mask need not be allowed into an office or store — they can be served remotely — at a store they can be asked to wait in their car or outside and have things brought to them or to do delivery for example. Being a jerk who waves the ADA about to not follow rules doesn’t mean you are allowed to go about spewing your infected breath on other people. And anyone actually sick enough that a mask would be a problem shouldn’t be out of the house anyway. (COVID patients in the hospital wear masks)

      Of course with a facial injury in a medical setting it is trickier but there, medical personnel are in a position to wear much more effective PPE. My niece who is an ER doc looks like a martian — she is a young woman with a young family and a doc husband and she kits out in the full body suit plus goggles plus one of those gas mask with cannister things and doffs everything in the garage before showering before she enters her living space and sees her family. This is just so tough on medical professional bless them and curse those who don’t take precautions and are filling the ERs unnecessarily.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        What about those who aren’t falsely claiming they can’t wear a mask? Do they deserve to be discriminated against because of their disability? Because that’s what you are proposing.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          There should be other accommodations for them, as Artemesia mentioned, than just not wearing a mask. Remote service, delivery, etc.

      2. Bippity*

        How does a grocery store differentiate between someone with a legitimate disability (and there are medical conditions other than facial injury that prevent mask wearing), and someone faking disability?

        1. I can only speak Japanese*

          They don’t have to. Artemesia outline options for maskless people, like delivery or online services. To the people in the same space as the maskless person, their reason doesn’t really matter.

          1. Bippity*

            Not everyone has access to those things. Check your privilege.

            It’s illegal to discriminate against people for being disabled.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re missing the point others are making, which is that stores that don’t offer those things can make exceptions (like bringing items to the car) as an accommodation for the person.

    4. Quiet Liberal*

      I went to my dentist’s office a couple of weeks ago for my six month checkup. Got to the door and could see through the windows that the waiting room was full of patients and not a mask in sight. Even the office help was barefaced. There also was nothing about COVID anywhere that I could see. I called from outside and the receptionist said “oh yes, I remember from our conversation last week that you are nervous about no masks. I was just getting ready to put mine on for you – hee hee.” What the actual hell? I not only cancelled my appt. right then, I also called my dental insurance provider and told them what had happened. (I lose benefits if I don’t have my teeth examined/cleaned every six months and wanted to make sure that didn’t happen because I didn’t go.) The rep on the other end gasped when I told her what had happened. She said “they must be caving to political pressure, but my god, they’re a medical office!” OP1, your physician is super irresponsible and I am so sorry you have to put up with that. I guess people who have medical degrees aren’t necessarily full of common sense.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That is insane. I switched dentists this year partially because the billing office at my old dental office was unprofessional as hell and partially due to COVID – the office is in a high rise building that shares ventilation with a hotel, and I had no desire to be trapped in somebody’s elevator or breathing in potentially recycled hotel air.

        My new dental office is literally down the street from my apartment, and I was nervous as hell about how they would handle appointments and this virus. I had no reason to – they made me fill out all forms online the day before my appointment; they got rid of their waiting room and called me when they were ready to see me; when I got to their building and called them to let them know I had arrived, their front door was locked and I was asked a bunch of screening questions; when they finally let me in, they took my temperature with an infrared thermometer and then made me sanitize my hands at their touchless sanitizing station; then they gave me a socially distanced tour around the office, showing me the markers on the floor to remind me to stand behind them and on the tape at all times; I had to gargle a hydrogen peroxide solution for 20 seconds before the hygienist took my bitewing X-rays and again before the dentist cleaned my teeth (she told me they were not allowed to use the polish and their electric toothbrush due to the concern about aerosolizing saliva, so she gave me the polish to take home and use myself); and then they cleaned off their card machine so I could make my copayment without fear of touching something someone else touched before me.

        All of the dental staff, including the front office receptionists, wore masks, and the hygienists and dentist wore masks, surgical scrubs, and face shields. They also changed their gloves after every procedure they did on me. The front desk had a large plastic shield installed so no one could lean against the counter, and they ask all patients to sanitize their hands on the way out before touching their door. Oh, and each exam room was actually fully enclosed with a locking door. I felt totally safe the whole time and appreciated the extent they went to make visits safe. It’s sad to hear your dental office seems to not give a shit about customers or each other, smh.

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          Oh my god! I want your dentist! My vet has the very same precautions as your dentist. My pet doctor is more professional and careful than my people dentist. I need a new dentist.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            You really do, lol. But yay for your pet being able to go to appointments with no issues!

    5. Alice's Rabbit*

      And some of us really do have medical conditions that make mask wearing dangerous or just impossible. Let’s try not to paint everyone with a negative brush, anymore than we would assume every service dog is fake, or everyone using the scooters at the grocery store is lazy. Okay?

      1. Leenie*

        I suppose it’s theoretically possible that a service dog or grocery store scooter could kill someone, but the risk is infinitesimal compared to unmasked people walking around in public during a pandemic. So those aren’t really comparable.

        I wouldn’t want people to be denied services if they truly can’t wear a mask (as opposed to the freedom from the tyranny of Costco people). But just going maskless around other people might not be an option, even if masks are truly difficult or impossible for an individual to wear. Accommodations might be that the dentist requests that an unmasked person awaits their appointment outside or in their car (if they have one) instead of the waiting room. Or that an unmasked person needs to utilize curbside pickup instead of walking the aisles at the grocery store.

        I believe that people do have legitimate health issues that can make wearing a mask unrealistic for them. But their health and needs have to be balanced against the health and needs of others.

      2. Bippity*

        Well said, Alice’s Rabbit.

        We really need to stop this narrative that disabled people’s rights are pitted against everyone else’s rights.

        If everyone practices proper social distancing and hand washing, etc. a person not wearing a mask poses very little risk.

        1. Observer*

          If everyone practices proper social distancing and hand washing, etc. a person not wearing a mask poses very little risk.

          That’s not entirely true. The simple fact is that in a lot of cases (such as enclosed spaces) social distancing is of limited use. Same for hand washing, especially since in public spaces the issue is most often not about what we touch. Not that we should ignore those two – anything that reduces spread is a good idea and hand washing is just a good idea anyway! But the reality is that so far, masks are the single thing that makes the most difference.

          I do think that if ONLY people who really can’t wear masks didn’t wear them it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. It’s similar to the whole herd immunity issue. Even with something like measles (where we know that the infection rate is insanely high) you can get herd immunity with less than 100% immunization rate in the population.

        2. Kelly S.*

          This is what my doctor also told me. I have a rare airway disease that makes me unable to wear a mask so I wear a shield that actually sits around the shoulders so it’s closed on the bottom. So far nobody has made a big deal of it.

    6. OP #1*

      That’s a really good idea, thank you! Especially since face shields are pretty easy to sanitize.

  3. Anon Anon*

    #1 — Most people who argue that they cant’ wear a mask say that they can’t because they can’t breath. As a local physician on our news indicated if you genuinely can’t breathe then you are sick enough that you shouldn’t be at any sort of business because you should be hospitalized. But, I think spelling out what the procedure for ADA accommodation is excellent, especially in places like retail where sadly many front line retail workers get abuse heaped on them.

    $5 — I’m curious about this, as every single place I’ve been has had the water foundations switched off. And I’m not seeing other sources of water being provided. It makes me wonder how many businesses are violating OSHA requirements.

    1. Observer*

      On #5 – the fact that a visitor can’t get water doesn’t mean that there is no water for staff.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        Even before COVID we had nowhere for customers to get water. It’s freely available in our employee break rooms… which are for employees only. Customers aren’t covered by OSHA requirements.

    2. an infinite number of monkeys*

      Our water fountains have both drinking spouts and bottle fillers. They’re still on, but the spouts are taped and blocked off with striped yellow and black tape and foam spout covers. The bottle fillers are available, so as long as you have your own container you can use them.

      1. Anon Anon*

        We don’t have water fillers with our water foundations, but they’ve been turned off. I work from home so it doesn’t matter to me. However, for those staff in the building it sounds like it could be an issue.

    3. Mazzy*

      People who say they can’t breath don’t literally mean they can’t breath, it means it is more difficult. I don’t think it’s productive to get into an argument with someone saying “you said you can’t breath but you obviously are because you’re talking! Go to the hospital if you can’t breath” when it’s obvious they mean “it’s more difficult.”

      Better to keep extra hankerchiefs (or other looser mask) around, or shields, as someone else suggested. Then you don’t have to guess what someone means when they say they can’t breath, and if they refuse to wear it, then you can treat it as non-compliance with the rules.

      1. Artemesia*

        If they can’t wear a mask because, gasp, it is inconvenient. (no one likes wearing them, they are not comfortable) then they can be served otherwise than in the store. Shields don’t protect other customers. Let them get delivery or have things brought outside. They are not entitled to go wherever they want without a mask because they are whiny.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Yeah. A lot of people do not seem to grasp the difference between “mildly inconvenient” and “life-threatening”. Saying you can’t breathe with a mask on is like saying you can’t walk with pants on – if it’s true, you’ve got a serious problem.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Some people do have serious problems. It’s a tiny fraction compared to people who are just uncomfortable, but plenty of people with severe chronic lung issues may be able to basically get enough oxygen in ideal circumstances but not while wearing a mask.

            1. Faith*

              If you have lung issues that bad, you shouldn’t be out and about in public right now anyway! You should be sheltering in place, because your risk is much higher.

              1. Bippity*

                Faith, please don’t push the “disabled people shouldn’t go outside” narrative, it’s extremely ableist and dangerous.

                Disabled people need to go to work so they can pay their rent, shop for food (in my country online grocery delivery slots are like gold dust), or to attend urgent medical appointments.

                A disabled man in my country starved to death because he had no way to get food for himself. Because he was doing what everyone online keeps screaming and “staying the eff home.”

                For centuries disabled people have been locked up and kept away from the general public. The mentality that disabled people are dangerous and “other” and should stop living their own lives to make able-bodied people avoid feeling discomfort. This attitude unfortunately still prevails today.

                It’s not okay to suggest a disabled person be denied access to food and essential medical care, or be forced to stop working and not be able to pay their bills and get evicted, for your comfort level.

                And think logically, not emotively. Mask wearing has become a huge hot potato in the USA. In my country we recognise that masks are important but only one of many factors we can utilise to keep ourselves and others safe. People online act as though anyone not wearing a mask is DEFINITELY infected and will DEFINITELY pass it to anyone who so much as looks at them. This is not logical. First, a severely disabled/unwell person is likely to be staying home except for absolutely essential journeys. They are likely to be ultra vigilant about hand washing, not mixing with anyone outside their household, social distancing, etc. etc. And they would likely become very ill very quickly if infected, and not be part of the asymptomatic infected walking around spreading it without knowing. So the chance they even have COVID at all is very low. Second, you need to be in close quarters for 10-15 minutes OR have them actively cough or sneeze to catch it. If you see someone not wearing a mask just avoid them, don’t touch your face, and sanitise/wash your hands asap. And do other things like avoid non-essential journeys, don’t go into shops unless essential eg food shopping, don’t meet in groups. All the things everyone should be doing anyway.

                1. Lucy*

                  Thanks for your posts in this comment section! I’m shocked at some of the dismissals I’m seeing of legitimate exemptions in the comments. Perhaps this reflects the fact that masks have now become part of the culture war, unfortunately, meaning we lose such nuances. What we should be calling for is that everyone who can wear a mask, must, for the benefit of all; and those who cannot should have access to face shields if they can use those – if they can’t, we will be covered by point 1. Not just saying ‘stay inside until there’s a vaccine and who needs to lip read anyway?’.

        2. JSPA*

          I have asthma.When I’m having a garden variety attack, I need all the air I can get (and then some). But…of course…I’ve done nothing but contactless pickup in the parking lot. Because the same things that mean there are times when I might literally not be able to wear a mask mean that I’m high risk, and I’d be a dang fool to walk around among people at all (masked or otherwise).

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Or they have something like exercise induced asthma, and the added strain of the mask can literally kill them.
        Guys, please get off your high horse and show a little compassion for the disabled.

      3. Pennyworth*

        Before masks use became widespread a friend assured me that she ‘çan’t breathe in a mask’, now she automatically wears one without comment or complaint whenever she leaves the house. Fear is a powerful motivator.

    4. Observer*

      As a local physician on our news indicated if you genuinely can’t breathe then you are sick enough that you shouldn’t be at any sort of business because you should be hospitalized

      That’s the kind of nonsense that reduces the credibility of all medical advice. It’s just not true – there really are people for whom masks are a problem, and they don’t all belong in the hospital. In fact, the last place a lot of these people should be is at a hospital.

      That doesn’t mean that the ADA advice is accurate or good. Nor is that to say that people in general should not wear masks. It’s just to say that please let’s be honest about mask wearing. And if the ONLY people who didn’t wear masks were the people who REALLY DO have a problem and they also wore face shields when possible, it would make a huge difference because there really are not THAT many people who REALLY cannot wear masks.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        If you have trouble breathing while wearing a mask you might have a respiratory condition, which would make you more vulnerable to Covid, which is itself a respiratory illness.

        I have asthma. I know what it’s like to have trouble breathing. Which is why I don’t go out to stores or hairdressers, because I don’t want to risk my life for something unnecessary. I’ve only been to doctor’s offices since this started.

        There are other accommodations that you can make if you can’t wear a mask. You can have things delivered (which I do). You can do curbside pickup. You can ask another person to shop for you and leave the items at your doorstep. None of those require other people to be at risk on your behalf.

        I have had several dentist appointments since I had work that was overdue and was in pain before it was done. The dentists, receptionists, assistants, hygienists, and other patients were all masked, and the dentist wore a face shield over his mask while working on me. I would not have been comfortable having the procedure done if they were not. I have also had a number of doctor’s appointments (since I’m pregnant) and everyone in the office wears masks.

        1. Observer*

          I agree with all of this. But in a sense you prove what I am saying – a mask is a problem for you but you don’t belong in the hospital.

          Of course, that doesn’t mean that you get to do what ever you want. And it doesn’t mean that you should be stupid and endanger yourself to “make a point”. It just means that the claim that anyone who says they have a problem with a mask must be lying because otherwise they would be in the hospital is not true – and it diminishes the credibility of the advice around mask wearing.

        2. ...*

          Having other people shop for you does put people at additional risk on your behalf. You say you don’t want to risk your life by going to the store, but presumably those people shopping for you, delivering your stuff, and compiling your online pickups are alive too.

          1. Anononon*

            Not really. Those other people are already doing shopping and wearing masks at the same time. This also reduces the total number of people in stores, thus making it easier to social distance.

          2. Lexi*

            I have severe asthma and wearing a cloth mask with filter puts my oxygen level in the “did you know that your average curb is as high as Mt Everest” feel. So when this all started, I tried every type of nask I could find and my doctor found me a lightweight surgical mask I can use. So I always wear a mask when I have to go out, but I spent a lot of time with my oximeters to find something that didn’t make my breathing worse. My recommendation if you think that you aren’t getting the oxygen you need is get a oximeter ($25 on Amazon), test wearing nothing and then spend 15 minutes with each mask and see how your number changes.

        3. JKP*

          Some people who can’t breathe with a mask have claustrophobia or some sort of PTSD trigger to having their mouth covered. With a mask on, they start to hyperventilate, until they have a full on panic attack.

          1. Pippa K*

            This is true but irrelevant to most of the mask-wearing disputes. It’s like the safety rules on an airplane. If I have a disability that means I can’t open the exit row door in an emergency, then I can’t sit in the exit row. It’s not discrimination, it’s rules for everyone’s safety. And claustrophobia doesn’t excuse me from seatbelt laws, even though those are just for my own safety.

            Besides, in practice, most of the no-mask people insisting on going tip to shops etc. are raising the issue of medical conditions in bad faith, as others have pointed out.

            1. JKP*

              I agree that most disputes are just jerks claiming a disability where they have one. But because of the type of work I do, I do encounter a lot of clients who legitimately are struggling with wearing a mask because of mental rather than physical issues. It’s not as rare as you think. They’re seeing me to help get over those issues, so it would be counterproductive if I didn’t attempt to accommodate them (and I can’t work with them remotely, it requires in person visits).

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Thank you for your hard work. I hope your clients appreciate all you’re doing for them.

            2. Bippity*

              That’s a bad comparison. No one needs to sit in the exit row, but people do need to buy food and attend essential medical appointments.

              (Several people have raised grocery home delivery which is definitely a life saver, but not something everyone has access to. In my country home delivery was restricted only to the most severely ill. Things are starting to get back to normal now – though you still have to book a delivery slot 2-3 weeks ahead of time. For months there simply were no delivery spots unless you had a medical priority government letter.)

              1. Pippa K*

                The comparison isn’t exit row seat/buying food, it’s flying/buying food. People can be excluded from exit rows for the safety of others, but we still find ways for them to fly safely. People can be excluded from doing their own shopping in person, but we still have to find ways for them to buy necessities. I’m not arguing against accommodations where necessary; I’m arguing against no-mask as a default accommodation for everyone, when near-universal masking is about the only tool we have to protect people right now.

          2. Bippity*

            Thank you for mentioning PTSD. I have PTSD from CSA, and although I can wear a mask easily (weirdly I actually find wearing a mask enjoyable and that it helps with certain mental health/ASD related things). But there are three separate women in my peer support group who were suffocated by having a hand forced over their mouth and nose during their rape, and masks are a huge PTSD trigger.

            That’s something no one ever talks about or acknowledges. I’ve seen so many comments online implying that breathing problems are the only reason anyone might struggle with masks, but PTSD, some forms of ASD, severe learning disabilities, epilepsy, all kinds of things might make masks problematic. My aunt (now deceased) was born severely brain damaged and had the cognitive ability of a toddler, she certainly would not have been able to wear a mask.

            SO so many women (and some men) experience rape, and suffocation/hand over mouth is a very common aspect of rape. So it’s understandable that some people find something over their mouths triggering.

      2. Anon Anon*

        I got the point that was being made though. A lot of people who say that they can’t breathe, truly can, it’s just not as comfortable. I think that piece on the news was during the time that there were tons of memes going around of people claiming that you could suffocate by wearing a mask.

        But, I also think that people who truly have issues wearing a mask (be that a psychological related issues, medical issues, etc.) are proactive about finding alternatives. Versus, the people who simply don’t want to wear a face covering.

        1. Observer*

          But, I also think that people who truly have issues wearing a mask (be that a psychological related issues, medical issues, etc.) are proactive about finding alternatives. Versus, the people who simply don’t want to wear a face covering.

          This is also my experience. And it’s worth pointing out to people who try this line. The question that any person who claims that they “can’t” wear a mask should have to answer is “What alternatives are you using to reduce the risk to yourself and everyone around you?”

          1. Quill*

            Yes, this. Competing access needs are a real thing, and this means that we need to set up multiple, overlapping systems in order to protect everyone.

        2. Mazzy*

          Thank you for this, I definitely didn’t mean to come down on you per se, but alot of the comment threads I see online are so polarizing and people take it to both extremes. I see people saying “I jogged 10 miles in a mask and it was totally comfortable” and stuff like that and I don’t know if they think they’re helping people wear mask, I think they’re just pushing people away.

          I’ve learned the hard way that if you want to convince someone to do something, you either come down like a hard authoritarian, or you speak their language. And sometimes when you go the speak-their-language route, people think you’re being a softy or giving too much ground. But it depends what your end goal is. Do you want to win an argument? Do you want to be right? Or do you want to actually change behavior?

          Implying people are crazy when they say they can’t breath or giving your own example of how you did something extreme in a mask doesn’t help, it makes people who are very uncomfortable in them entrench themselves in their beliefs because they think there is something wrong with them, because they can’t do what you can do in a mask.

          1. Observer*

            Do you want to win an argument? Do you want to be right? Or do you want to actually change behavior?

            I think this is very important.

            I want people to wear masks. And I want people who have a legitimate problem to mitigate the problem, even if it’s inconvenient for them.

          2. cricket*

            For me, it’s just exhausting to treat grown adults who have no regard for my life like delicate babies who need to be coddled into the most basic decisions. Conspiracy theorists on facebook feel no need to be nice or win hearts to convince people that covid is a democrat hoax.

            1. Observer*

              Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?

              I’m not being snarky. I don’t waste time or energy on people whose behavior I can’t influence. For anyone else, I think that being effective is more important than being right. If you can’t do that, I get it. But then just don’t get involved – don’t make things harder for the people who are trying to actually influence people.

        3. somethingchronic*

          Yup. Autistic here – I was very upset that wearing a mask was so panic-inducingly awful for me, and have been finding ways round that. Like: not going into enclosed spaces while I work this out; tying a large triangular scarf round my face; a face shield. I’m getting there.

      3. Anax*

        Yeah, wearing a mask is a serious respiratory trigger for me – ten minutes or so and I’ll be hyperventilating, having chest pain, and stumbling about in pre-syncope. “Not being able to breathe” isn’t much of a stretch, if I’m having an asthma attack bad enough that I’m about to faint – but also, obviously, not an acute illness needing continuous hospitalization, and getting COVID on top would be really, really bad.

        (And also, y’know, if you can’t wear a mask because of respiratory issues, you’re probably high-risk and REALLY shouldn’t be going near people at all.)

        Let’s be real – the problem is “people being selfish jerks”, and more broadly, the systematic undermining of science and social responsibility by extremists in the US. Every country has asthmatics, but very few are having this problem.

        1. Gaia*

          That’s exactly it. If you can’t wear a mask because it makes breathing truly that uncomfortable for you then you either should be in a hospital because you have a serious condition or you should be staying home because you are incredibly high risk for COVID.

          Masks are uncomfortable. I don’t like them, especially in places where it is hot or humid. But it is a small price to pay to know that I am doing my part to help. It isn’t perfect, it isn’t ideal, but it is one little sacrifice. Not doing so because it is just uncomfortable or because you (general, not anyone specific) don’t like being told what to do is incredibly selfish and abhorrent.

          1. Anax*

            Also selfishly: MAN, society, get your butts in gear so we high-risk people can go outside.

            I probably won’t get to do dumb, ordinary things like go to the library or grocery shop for at least a year, and ugh, I miss it.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Right! I miss being able to just walk down the block without fearing some idiot’s going to walk up beside me unmasked and do something stupid like cough or sneeze without covering their mouth.

        2. Observer*

          Let’s be real – the problem is “people being selfish jerks”, and more broadly, the systematic undermining of science and social responsibility by extremists in the US.

          That is completely true. But you don’t combat people being selfish jerks by exaggerating and saying things that are not true.

          It’s a similar problem when people who are trying to address a problematic patter by saying “Never” or “always” when that’s not the case. Because what happens in those cases is that once someone finds ONE case where that doesn’t apply the whole premise gets dismissed.

          Also, in my experience, people who make points this way tend to exaggerate and paint with an overly broad brush that often leads to other problems. True, that’s not universal, but I’ve seen it often enough that I tend to tune out people who speak this way.

          And, to be honest, it also stupid. It’s just not necessary to make these kinds of claims to “make a point”. You can make the point quite well without it.

          1. Mazzy*

            You do know that calling someone selfish when they don’t think they are selfish will drive them further into their behavior or beliefs like 98% of the time. On my FB I’m seeing my extended family I’m seeing escalating comments and tension and all it does is drive people further apart and make them think the other side is a monster. I’m so tired of it.

            1. Observer*

              I agree. I’m not saying that we should be calling people selfish.

              I think we should be using language that normalizes mask wearing, marginalizes failure to do so without at least some attempt at mitigation, and that pushes people to doing the right thing. And I do think that in many cases using language that points the person to their selfishness can be useful. (That’s different from calling people selfish, even when it’s true.)

            2. RozGrunwald*

              Yep. This is what’s happening. In general, scolding people and shaming people just causes them to double down on their problematic behavior. Trying to make people feel bad about themselves and what they’re doing generally causes two reactions: the behavior continues but the person hides it; or the person defiantly continues the behavior and escalates the riskiness of it. This is a well-documented behavioral reaction; there’s tons of scientific and medical literature about it. I 100% believe that people should wear masks and wear them myself, everywhere I go. But I see the shaming and scolding going on and wish people would understand, this is not how you get human beings to change their behavior. The United States has very particular, longstanding historical cultural beliefs around independence and conformity that are hard to change in a short period of time. There are certain subcultures in the United States that actively combat conformity, and consider contrarianism to be a virtue. Shaming isn’t going to work on those people.

              1. ShanShan*

                Let’s be clear, though: they very much deserve to be shamed.

                If I’m not going to shame them, it’s because I don’t think it will change their behavior. That’s it. That’s the only reason why. It’s not because it’s not polite, or unfair, or mean. It’s because I don’t think it will work.

                I sometimes feel like the “shaming won’t work” conversation gets mixed up with the “shaming is ethically wrong and/or rude” conversation.

                So, I want to be crystal clear: shame would be the proper emotion for them to feel, and I have lost an enormous amount of respect for them that I don’t think I will ever regain.

                1. Mazzy*

                  OK, but the problem is people had that mindset from day one. In retrospect it was very counterproductive. In mid-March people were skeptical if a lockdown would work and they were called stupid, right from the get go. So the conversations shut down before we even knew anything about the disease.

                  You might be thinking “it’s OK to shame someone because we’re so far into this that they’re too far gone.” But if this goes on for another couple of months, we’d only be in the middle of it. It’s still worth talking to people.

                  What my stance has become, from experience getting what I want, is asking myself “what are you afraid of?” “What am I going to hear that I don’t want to hear?”

                  If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, you don’t lose anything by listening for 20 seconds why they tell you why. Maybe they’ll say something interesting. Either way, they will also be 100X more receptive to you saying “can you wear one anyway just as a precaution. It will make other people more comfortable,” which may shorten the length of the entire encounter and deescalate it

                  I’m not a saint but I’m not the judge of who gets shamed or not, unless it involves violence or neglect or abuse.

                  I don’t know why I’m getting so worked up on this. I think it’s because the fighting going around me is stressing me out. People need to learn to communicate without yelling and insulting. State your points. The truth has a way of winning, even if it’s not immediate. We need to have humility to take in new data. I’ve seen so many people lose arguments around me because they used old or biased data and then they get mad and buckle down. You can’t be yelling at people who you view as being on an another side. Life is not an internet debate

                  That’s my last comment on the topic. Thank you:-)

                2. Anonymosity*

                  @Mazzy–I like your deescalation language. I’m currently up for a front desk job and was anxious about how I would enforce a mask policy should I run into this situation. Thank you for that.

              2. Archie Goodwin*

                Well said – I have a lot of friends who (judging by their Facebook posts, at least) would do well to remember some/all of what you say.

              3. cricket*

                You think the US is the only country in the world that has nonconformists? I’m just tired with having to tiptoe around the people who want to crush me.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  So there with you. I am really struggling with the urge to say “You are stupid. You are selfish. You are willfully ignorant, and if you were only endangering yourself, I would be more than happy to let you go your merry way and discover the consequences all by yourself. But you’re putting others at risk because you are arrogantly ignorant and want to think you either a) know better, b) are getting away with something. And the most I can feel is weary contempt for you, and deep anger on behalf of all the other people you are putting at risk because you won’t learn.”

                  I know that isn’t effective, so I’m not saying it. But sometimes, it would FEEL SO GOOD.

          2. Anax*

            Yeah, agreed. It just seems like so much of this comes down to libertarian extremism, and I’m not sure how to fight that; ordinary factual arguments don’t take into account like… straight-up not believing in the scientific method, and I have no idea how to deal with that.

          3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            I’m just gonna leave my two cents right here on the whole mask issue…..

            I have severe asthma, EXTREMELY severe COPD, EXTREMELY severe emphysema and bronchiectasis. I have had cardiomyopathy in the not too distant past as well as IBS-D. I also suffer with anxiety, depression and panic disorder. I wear the damn mask. I can manage it for 15-20 minutes it takes me to run into whatever store I have to go in to. Anything beyond that and I start having issues and needing my nebulizer (not just my inhaler, but a sesh with the nebulizer).

            If I can wear a mask, pretty much anyone can.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              You are an excellent example of a person who does their best in spite of the problems. I wish more people were like you.

              Thank you.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          (And also, y’know, if you can’t wear a mask because of respiratory issues, you’re probably high-risk and REALLY shouldn’t be going near people at all.)


          If you have respiratory issues that make wearing a mask a risk to your health, you should probably take advantage of all the no-touch, contactless options available, because you are at a very high risk if you get COVID. One of my roomies is immune compromised, and she doesn’t go out shopping much – the rest of us do it.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            When those options are free, sure, I take advantage of them. But most of them aren’t free, and the law is pretty clear about discrimination against the disabled. Not everyone can afford to have their groceries delivered. But they still need to eat.

            1. MelonHelen*

              Delivery is not free but curbside pickup is, and every grocery store has that. Someone who can’t wear a mask should not be going inside a grocery store.

              1. Bippity*

                Of course not every grocery store has “curbside pickup.” There are plenty of supermarkets in cities that don’t have any parking access at all – no parking, no curbside pickup. In my country curbside pickup is not free, but actually quite expensive. So it’s not true that it’s free everywhere or that it exists everywhere.

                And not everyone drives or has internet access. Disabled people are likely to not drive, and a high percentage of disabled people lack internet access.

            2. MangoIsNotForYou*

              Is it a possibility where you are to have the store shop for you, load your car/bring groceries out to you, and have you pay outside? Most of the grocery stores near me are willing to assist those who can’t/won’t wear a mask by having someone act as a runner inside the store.

      4. Artemesia*

        If they can’t wear a mask then they shouldn’t be shopping in person. Since a long distance runner with asthma won a race while masked (before COVID, he needed to filter pollens) I am dubious that there is anyone who CANNOT wear a mask, but there are lots of people who have made it a political position that you cannot ‘make me wear a mask’ — For those people there is on line shopping and delivery.

        1. The Tattler*

          As many people as possible should be using online shopping and delivery, regardless of whether they “cannot wear masks” (for the vast majority of people who say this, I don’t believe them).

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          There are many different types of asthma. His is clearly not exercise induced, if he can run at all without his inhaler. So yeah, the mask isn’t likely to cause him problems, because his asthma is likely allergen based. If anything, the mask might be helpful in keeping the allergen out of his respiratory system.
          For those with exercise induced asthma, however, the added strain of the mask can cause severe symptoms.

        3. Bippity*

          Artemisia that simply is not true at all, and unless you’re a doctor you have no grounds to say that.

          Also not everyone has access to online shopping. In my country online shopping was restricted to people who’d been given a special access by the government (showing that they were medically extremely vulnerable and needed extra help) but many people who should have been on the list were left off it. For months it simply wasn’t possible to get online delivery, and even now you have to book a delivery slot two weeks ahead of time.

          1. Bippity*

            Even with online shopping people still need to go outside to attend essential medical appointments.

        4. Ace in the Hole*

          I suppose that depends on your definition of “cannot wear a mask.” If you mean people who will die within minutes… yes, it’s true, most people who would die within minutes of putting on a mask are already hospitalized.

          There are people who will start suffering from low oxygen if they wear a mask while doing ordinary activities. Just because you can point to one person with one condition and say “look, he did it!” doesn’t mean everybody can. My elderly neighbor with COPD gets dizzy if she wears a mask for more than 5-10 minutes. Is it POSSIBLE to wear one? Technically yes. But it’s more dangerous than going without since the risk of fainting/falling is quite serious.

          There are also people with phsychological/neurological disabilities that interfere with mask wearing. Many, many people with PTSD, claustrophobia, autism spectrum disorder, etc. will have panic attacks from things clinging to their face. Again, technically possible to wear a mask in the sense that they won’t drop dead. But is it a reasonable expectation? Wearing the mask effectively prevents them from doing the thing they put the mask on for since you can’t do your grocery shopping if you’re in the middle of a panic attack.

          Online shopping and delivery are great options… when they exist. There is no home grocery delivery in my region. You can’t get delivery for medical appointments. Many people here don’t even have home garbage pickup, so they have to make regular trips to the dump to prevent unsanitary garbage buildup.

          Your stance seems to be that literally everyone can wear a mask, anyone who refuses to is doing so purely for ideological reasons, and furthermore that everyone has the option to do all their essential business without ever leaving their homes. None of those are true. It’s important that people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing masks be accommodated… but accommodations are different than just ditching masks entirely. Allowing alternate face coverings (loose scarves, face shields), curbside pickup, and having customers schedule appointments to reduce crowding are all recommended accommodations.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I have had two jobs in which I wore surgical-type masks regularly and the odds of one being physically unable to breathe while wearing one are *infinitesimally* small. I worked with elderly veterinarians who had COPD and still wore masks all day, every day, to no ill effect. N-95s, yes, are more obstructive, but ordinary surgical or fabric masks just are not. Millions of people in Asia have worn masks *while they are ill* and there doesn’t seem to have been an epidemic of them passing out because of it.

      I remain convinced that, with very, very, few exceptions, most people who “can’t breathe” while wearing a mask are reacting to the discomfort and unfamiliarity of the mask. Like wearing new shoes or jeans that are stiff and tight in unfamiliar places–they’re not actually going to damage you, they just don’t feel the way you wish they did. And now it’s politically convenient to claim you “can’t breathe”, which is making everyone louder.

    6. Yeah_I know*

      Yeah, an acquaintance was freaking out about not being able to breath. She complained to her doctor and it turned out that there was actually something somewhat serious going on that was affecting her breathing! She was just so used to it that she didn’t notice until she put on the mask.

      If people legitimately can’t breath, they should see a doctor.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            If you want to pay for my grocery deliveries, be my guest. Otherwise, I can’t afford it, and my kids still need to eat.

            1. jules*

              Grocery delivery and curbside pickup aren’t even offered at any of the stores in my rural town. We don’t all have the same options.

            2. Eleanna*

              Alice, just FYI, several states now allow for people on food stamps to get grocery delivery, often subsidized, in case that applies to you or is helpful.

        1. Mel_05*

          This person’s problem was easily fixed, although it could have killed her if it had gone untreated, so I strongly recommend that people having a similar experience see the doctor as soon as they can.

          But, if she’d needed to wait to have it fixed or it wasna easy to fix, the solution wouldn’t have been for her to be aggressively anti-mask.

    7. Fae Kamen*

      Not to stray too far from the question’s focus on people speaking disingenuously, but just want to point out that having your breathing significantly impeded by a mask doesn’t mean you can’t breathe independently and need to be hospitalized. See the commenter with asthma below.

    8. Phony Genius*

      On the news, I saw one person who legitimately can’t wear a mask due to a skin condition. The face shield is no good either because their forehead has the same condition. They basically have to stay home for now, since there are no reasonable accommodations for this.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I wonder if people with those kinds of conditions could wear the face shields that come attached to glasses versus the ones that have the strap that wraps around the base of the head. I had to get the former because my head’s too big for most hats, so I doubt the bands on regular face shields would have fit.

        1. Lady Heather*

          There are also face shields that rest on the chin, though that might not help either with the skin condition.

      2. Alex*

        That appears to be one area in which the US is going further than many other countries. Here in the UK the government have made it pretty clear that allowing those with genuine reasons not to wear a mask have to be allowed into shops and on public transport without wearing one, despite masks being compulsory for everyone else.

        1. mreasy*

          The US isn’t “going further.” People with actual reasons for not wearing a mask are to be accommodated. However, people without medical reasons are claiming three falsehoods: 1) that they have a medical need protected by the ADA; 2) that the only way to reasonably accommodate them is to let them do whatever they want without a mask on; 3) that the law states businesses cannot inquire about their ADA condition. In fact businesses are absolutely allowed to ask what condition is affected by not wearing a mask – similar to when someone with a service dog (or “service dog”) wants to come into a food establishment.

          1. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

            This is incorrect. The ADA does specifically prohibit asking any individual about their disability. (In fact, with respect to service animals, a public establishment may inquire ONLY: 1) Is this animal required because of a disability? and 2) What work or task has this animal been trained to perform? Note that there is NO inquiry into their “condition.” that would be illegal.)

            A business may not ask about the NATURE OR EXTENT of an individual’s disability. That means that OP1 is 100% correct that you may NOT QUESTION when someone claims they “can’t” wear a mask. REGARDLESS of how rare or unlikely it may seem.

            Having a set list of accommodations is an excellent suggestion by Alison, precisely because you are legally prohibited from doing anything else. You cannot refuse entry (at least absent ensuring the person can still obtain the service/goods you are offering), and you cannot ask about the claimed disability. Pretty much everything OP1 wrote is correct.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              Unfortunately, many businesses are refusing entrance, despite the ADA. One employee even physically assaulted me. And I won’t get into the disgusting things that have been said.
              I have multiple medical conditions that make wearing a mask dangerous. I am on doctor’s orders not to do so. And I am sick of being discriminated against because of my disabilities.

              1. TTDH*

                They can refuse entrance as long as they’re still offering those who can’t enter a reasonable way to access their goods/services, and *that* is what they should be doing, not letting people enter unmasked. A reasonable accommodation is NOT discrimination.

        2. Media Monkey*

          and the UK govt are supplying people who cant wear masks with a permit for not wearing i believe? which i would assume would get around issues with people just deciding not to wear them.

          1. Bippity*

            No, the British government aren’t issuing permits for masks. They maintain something called the “extremely vulnerable list” which you need to be on to be eligible for grocery store home delivery. But that’s only for people who would be severely affected by Covid like transplant recipients. It doesn’t apply to mask wearing, since the entire point of the list is that people on it aren’t supposed to be leaving their home at all.

            People who can’t wear masks for medical reasons don’t really have any way to prove it.

      3. lost academic*

        And this is why it’s so important for every single other person to take these precautions so that this poor person ISN’T trapped at home indefinitely and we can get past this.

    9. Curmudgeon in California*

      One of my roomies has respiratory issues – he’s had pneumonia something like five times! He wears a mask when outside the house, because he knows that getting COVID could kill him, and that while masks mostly protect others, it also provides him a little protection.

      Yes, masks can be uncomfortable, hot, inconvenient, blah, blah. So is clothing, to many people. Just like people who want to live the clothing optional lifestyle move into nudist colonies, people don’t want to wear masks should segregate/isolate into groups of like minded folks, and just have one or two people mask up occasionally to deal with the outside world.

      Seriously, I’m done with the special snowflake anti-maskers.

    10. Mx*

      I am in good health, but I find it very difficult to breath properly when walking fast/running with a face mask. I like to keep my mask when walking in busy streets but it means I can’t walk fast or I have to remove the mask.

    11. Kelly S.*

      I hate medical “experts” that have never even heard of my airway disease. And there are many. I am not sick in any way. I get a build up of scar tissue that blocks my airway to varying degrees. When it’s acting up, I cannot wear a mask. Full stop. My shield is the best I can do.

  4. Rainy*

    I have asthma, and wearing a mask and doing anything else at all–like walking, talking, carrying even something small, ANYTHING–leaves me gasping and wheezing. When I have occasion to walk in high traffic areas or go into a store (which I’ve done maybe 5 times since March, thanks to a concerned husband), I wear a mask anyway, because it’s safest for everyone involved. And yeah, I gasp for breath a lot. Oh well, what are you going to do.

    So, as someone with an actual medical condition that makes it really hard to wear a mask, I don’t have any sympathy for the people who just don’t want to because muh freedumz. Wear the blasted mask, you selfish babies.

    1. Anax*

      Likewise. Hot, humid air is unfortunately one of my asthma triggers, as is even slight exertion, so masks are really miserable.

      If I had to actually go out more – for grocery shopping, say – I’d need to figure out some sort of accommodation, because I can’t drive safely during an asthma attack. But that accommodation definitely wouldn’t look like “wandering through stores willy-nilly for fun”; beyond public safety, I’m higher-risk and getting COVID would be REALLY BAD for me.

      (And goodness gracious, I miss going outside.)

      1. Rainy*

        I have one of those drapey masks that goes from nose to neckline but has ear loops so it stays secure, and I’m hoping to find some that are even drapier (or make some now that I know how they’re constructed), and it’s actually a little better than the masks that are fitted to the face, for me anyway. Might be something to try if you haven’t given one of those a shot.

        I’ve been getting pretty sick of all the able-bodied people without lung conditions that are saying “you can wear a mask and be perfectly fine” just because I’m not actively suffocating in one. Air hunger is one of the least comfortable feelings I have ever experienced.

        1. Anax*

          That definitely sounds of interest – I can’t do ear loops, they actually fall right off my head, but I might be able to make one with ties that works for me. Thanks! I haven’t seen those around and that does sound like it might help.

          Air hunger is pretty darn miserable, and for some reason, my rescue inhaler isn’t helping much here. (And I’m hoping to avoid corticosteroids since they’re immunosuppressive, obviously; I don’t normally take one, but I had to for a while this spring.)

          And I’m already prone to fainting and tachycardia, so asthma attacks and overheating don’t help! Disaster media did not prepare me for just how UNCOMFORTABLE a pandemic would be.

          1. Sara M*

            There are products that look like a hat or beanie with a button on each side. These allow you to wear regular masks that hang on the buttons.

              1. Sara without an H*

                I haven’t tried this particular product, but I’ve ordered masks from this firm and been pleased with them. I also order head wraps from them, back when I did chemo a couple of years ago, and was please with those, too.

                And the product you showed looks great for winter.

            1. Anax*

              Too hot for me right now – I overheat REALLY easily, and overheating makes me faint – but definitely planning on that for winter! I’m kind of looking forward to it, honestly; they’re cute.

              (And getting the sizing right means I’ll probably have to make my own again; my cartilage is too bendy, so the same problem that makes the loops fall off my ears means my nose squishes flat with a mask which is too tight. Everything ties back to the same genetic disorder, it’s just an exasperating one to manage.)

              1. Rainy*

                I’ve seen mask-extender bands that basically hook through the ear loops and can be positioned on the back of the neck or the high point of the head–would those be a good summertime alternative?

                1. Lisa*

                  FYI, these are marketed as “ear savers” – probably get better search results using that phrase. I’ve also seen how-tos on Youtube for making them yourself if you’re crafty.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                I am not fond of the ear loop masks at all. They irritate my ears.

                So the masks I make have ties or adjustable elastic (with either triglides or cord locks) that goes around the head. The nice thing is that when not around people I can just take the top elastic off and let the mask hang by the bottom elastic (I don’t touch the surface of the mask.) They also have a long nose wire that I can adjust to the contour or my nose and face so my glasses don’t fog up.

                For people who aren’t crafty, look for “ear savers” the help get the mask loops off of your ears.

                1. Anonymosity*

                  Also, keep an eye out in stores where they’re selling masks; they might have these accessories too, since it’s becoming ubiquitous.

      2. fogharty*

        Would a face shield be helpful instead of a mask for when you are forced to be out in public? Would that be less likely to trigger an attack?

        1. Anax*

          Maybe! I’m worried about hurting myself if I faint or fall and bonk it into my face, and I’ve been waiting to see a little more data on efficacy, but I’m hopeful! Definitely keeping my eye on that; thank you!

          (Multiple disabilities, I also have bad joints and a fainting disorder, among other silliness.)

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        I’ve been making masks and watching people’s videos on mask-making. I saw one recently that suggested putting a small ice-pack in where a filter might go. It’s just not hot enough (or humid enough) for me to want that, but maybe it’d be helpful? I’ll try to find the YT link and share it as a response, here.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          The masks I make have a filter pocket, and a small flat ice pack would fit in and still allow breathability. Cool idea!

    2. Exhausted Trope*

      Yup, asthmatic here but fortunately it only attacks on high pollution days and I stay in then. I went grocery shopping today and the humidity is high. Had some issues but made it out ok and yes, wore a mask the entire time.

    3. Pilcrow*

      Another asthmatic checking in. I still wear a mask at work and when out shopping – at work we can have the mask off when alone in our cubes, otherwise it’s on. And it got real humid here the last couple weeks.

      I just console myself with the fact that nobody can see me panting with my mouth hanging open. Also, the upper lip hair doesn’t need as much maintenance!

    4. Nope Nope Nope*

      I don’t have breathing issues, but I do have skin issues. I get psoriasis flare ups like crazy. It’s humid outside? Flare up. I went to a swimming pool with chlorine? Flare up. It’s winter time and I’m low on Vitamin D? Flare up. It’s just grrrrrrrreat. Now I’ve been getting flare ups on my face from the humid conditions inside the mask.

      Unfortunately, I’m semi-essential and need to be in the office to do my job, so I’m in situations where I have to wear the mask pretty frequently. Last week I had a flare up all along my lower lip that buuuuurned and was constantly uncomfortable. Am I about to stop wearing a mask?? HELL NO! I can get through this. The one good thing is that the masks cover up the flare ups that they’re causing…so at least no one else is aware that my chin is bright red. There’s one silver lining for ya… Hang in there, everyone!

      1. Anax*

        Ugh, I’m sorry; that sounds so uncomfortable! I hope the weather makes things easier soon.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am ancient and got a face breakout recently which I am guessing might be mask related since I haven’t had a pimple in decades. Small price to pay for not drowning in my own fluids. Masks are uncomfortable and annoying. Most people can wear the for the short time needed to be on transport or in a store — if not then they need to make other arrangements for getting stuff which at the moment is pretty available.

      3. Anonymosity*

        Bleah. That’s no fun. I’m in an area where summers are typically a boiling swamp of humidity. I don’t use them often, but the surgical-style masks available at Walmart are lighter and easier to wear when it’s extremely hot and humid out.

      1. Rainy*

        Literally everyone I know who has a condition that makes mask-wearing difficult is wearing masks when they go out anyway and just limiting going out as much as possible. I think the people who have real problems are doing the absolute best they can.

        1. Rainy*

          (Honestly, those of us with such conditions are also usually also in the higher-risk category, hence the caution.)

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I know someone who was going for occasional walks at 4 a.m., so she could count on not being within several meters of anyone else.

  5. HoHumDrum*

    Thank you for providing info re: the ADA, I hope all businesses are giving their employees this information. All the news around people trying to incorrectly use it makes my blood boil.

    The number of able-bodied people who have shown how clueless and ableist they really are…like they really think being disabled means you just float around like royalty, waving a magic “ADA Wand” and you get whatever you demand instantly. No wonder they’re so dismissive of people with disabilities.

    NEWS FLASH: the ADA does NOT work that way! It really provides the very bare minimum and not even that. People with actual, real disabilities are discriminated against every day, and even with the ADA so many people struggle to do the basic tasks they need to survive because most of the world is not accommodating. None of the anti-mask whiners would survive a day being actually disabled.

    1. Altair*

      The number of able-bodied people who have shown how clueless and ableist they really are…like they really think being disabled means you just float around like royalty, waving a magic “ADA Wand” and you get whatever you demand instantly. No wonder they’re so dismissive of people with disabilities.

      Ugh, this is so true and so obnoxious. I was just thinking that this ‘advice’ to misuse the ADA as a “get out of wearing mask free card” is based on a deeply wrong idea that accommodations are a kind of favor or extra perk, rather than being an attempt (often insufficient) to clear away at least some obstacles to bring disabled people up to par in being able to do what needs to be done.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        This, exactly. It’s like when I was 6 and was jealous of all the attention my classmate with the broken arm got. You’re supposed to grow out of that stage, and eventually realize that the superficial bump in attention doesn’t even begin to make up for the pain, misery, and the myriad of activities one can no longer do easily or at all.

        Which, not all disabled people feel negatively about their disability- I don’t want to suggest that that is a direct analogy. Just trying to say that accommodations are not actually fun privileges, and the mindset that they are just shows the limited empathy and awareness that so many people have.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Just trying to say that accommodations are not actually fun privileges, and the mindset that they are just shows the limited empathy and awareness that so many people have.


          I’m disabled. I get the more convenient parking. Whoopee! I actually need it because I’m mobility impaired. I actually am wiped out by an hour shopping – as in need a nap.

          I would rather be able-bodied and able to park in the “back 40” at the store.

          A disabled friend of mine tells a story about some jerk confronting him about parking in a handicapped spot.
          Jerk: “I wish I got the up close reserved parking.”
          Friend: “I wish I could do something you can.”
          Jerk: “What?”
          Friend: “Run.”
          (The friend in question has a bad knee that will suddenly stop working, without warning, so he uses a cane.)

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I usually keep my mouth shut when people get on my nerves, but somebody really ticked me off one time. I have kidney disease that fluctuates between stage 3 and stage 4, heart disease, prior heart attack, a 100% blockage in my right coronary artery and an 80% blockage in my LAD (they don’t think there would be any benefit to stenting the 100% occlusion, and they can’t stent the LAD lesion because it’s too distal for them to reach it with their tools, so I just take medicine and hope I don’t have a massive heart attack), a blood disorder that could turn into multiple myeloma at any minute, and an autoimmune disorder. Somebody was giving me grief about having a temporary disabled parking permit (I was in acute kidney failure, and my BP was 85/50, which made it feel like I was trying to swim through quicksand when I stood up or tried to walk a foot). I got really mad and told them that I would gladly give them my parking permit if they would like to take on all my health problems.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            A former coworker of mine lodged a complaint about me to management because I got a perk he’d been denied. I had the disabled parking bay outside the building (because I’m disabled and have a permit) and he had to park in the public car park further away because he wasn’t disabled.

            I remember my boss having to go out for a cig break to calm down before she came back to explain to him that no, the company wasn’t going to give him his own parking bay just because he felt it was unfair.

            (She laughed later at my suggestion which was to tell Mr Whine that if he lay down in the car park I’d drive over him a few times so he could get the kind of injuries I have that make me disabled. She of course didn’t use that suggestion but “do you want Keymaster to back her car over you?” became a joking response to any ‘unfair’ whining in the office from then on :)

      2. Artemesia*

        Same thing happens around service animals as now every selfish whiner claims that Boopsie is a necessary comfort animal and yammers about ADA and we have untrained dogs peeing in grocery aisles. (whose owners never clean up after them). I have personally observed this twice. The backlash will affect people with genuine need just as people claiming ADA who don’t need it will hurt people who really do.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*


      I am beyond disgusted by people’s attempts to (mis)use the ADA this way.

    3. kittymommy*

      If I hear one more person invoke “medical issues” for not wearing a mask y’all might hear about me on the news. I was talking to a cop the other day (I work with LEO’s and first responders regularly) and he was recounting, as if it was fact, some signs he saw in a (chain) store telling customers that if they can’t wear a mask remember that under HIPAA laws the store can’t ask them. The impression being given that the store is encouraging customers to lie about medical conditions.

      Y’all I almost went off.

  6. Captain*

    #1 I appreciate Alison clarifying this, as someone who cannot wear a mask because of a disability, and a sporadic medical condition, i wear a face shield at work.

    But imagine my surprise when I had finally booked a hair appointment, waited 3 weeks, and was then told only when i walked in the door, I had to wear a mask, no exceptions. I would have appreciated advanced notice…

    So….because my hair stylist and I have been “hair dating” for years, she was super helpful. She said i could wear a disposable mask, which is truly minimally restrictive, and take breaks outside as needed.

    I think i was crying 90% of the time, and definitely needed a couple breaks, but it was so nice to not have been treated like I was lying because I honestly cannot wear a mask.

    I understand people bristling, because really, government mandates are very different kind of rules…but my disability is not a golden ticket and I would trade it in a heartbeat.

    My stylist is an angel.

    P.S. I get made fun of for wearing the shield almost daily…and it’s not funny. Im sick of being asked about the SWAT team, and welding, and motorcycles…people suck.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’m surprised your salon didn’t go over that on the phone; when I booked my first appointment post-reopening, they gave me a whole rundown – masks, wait outside till your appointment, sign a waiver, get your temperature taken. I’m glad your stylist was able to work with you, and I’m sorry that people make fun of you.

      1. Chinook*

        I think a lot of businesses are just assuming that masks are the only option and everything else is obvious. At church, where we do the spiel for everyone who enters, 90% of the questions are now shortened to something along the lines of “do you fit our guidelines ” unless we haven’t seen a person in over a month because this is the new normal. It is easy to forget that, for some people, this is the first time they have been out in months.

        And face shields are not always approved because nobody did peer reviewed testing for their effectiveness pre-covid, so technically there is no proof they work even though common sense says they do. I wish people were more accepting of them generally as I love interacting with store staff who wear them – it feels more normal.

        1. Captain*

          The salon said the shield was unacceptable because it “didn’t restrict airflow ” which is not exactly how I understood masks to function in restricting transmission, but I digress…

          I realize it’s not perfect, but neither are masks. And honestly, I figure I’m at least trying, vs. the people who wear them under their nose or chin as if to signal ‘I have a mask but why bother!’

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I hate it when they leave their nose hanging out. It tells me that they don’t understand anything about breathing, or they’re just clueless.

            1. Quill*

              The urge to say something witty about the fate of those protruding noses increases every day.

              Once I come up with something I may even do that.

          2. TTDH*

            I mean, a face shield that’s open along the bottom and/or back is never going to be as effective as a mask that touches your face all around. The “filtering” the mask provides absolutely is important to reducing transmission. Masks aren’t perfect, but they’re less “not perfect” than a face shield so they really aren’t wrong to require them, but they should have been unambiguous and made sure you knew about their requirements when you booked your appointment. I’m glad that they were able to find a way to make it work for you and still keep others safe!

      2. Hallowflame*

        Unfortunately this is going to vary widely from business to business. The stylist I go to is a sole proprietor and rents a single-chair room in a “salon park”. The only rules she’s enforcing are the one where she has her customers wait to be let in the building and only having one person in her room at a time (and sometimes not even that one).
        Obviously, I haven’t been to see her since this all began, and from what I’m hearing about her response to the pandemic I’m questioning whether I’ll ever go back. But she is an example of how many business owners are neglecting health advisories and common-sense measures.

        1. Anonymosity*

          The one I’ve been going to here has masked days and maskless days, to accommodate customers who can’t (or I guess won’t) wear one. The stylist I like wears one and only works on masked days, and they clean very well in between, according to her. We are instructed to wait in the car until called in for our appointments. I went the extra mile by washing my hair before I showed up, so all Jane had to do was cut it, then I paid and left. No blow-drying allowed, which is fine by me, since I air dry my fragile colored hair most of the time anyway.

          I don’t know if y’all heard about the Great Clips salon in Springfield, Missouri. Two stylists were infected and symptomatic and they went to work anyway (because they had to). Masks were required for all staff and customers, no exceptions. None of the customers got sick from that exposure.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      I wear a face shield and a mask when I venture out of my apartment to get my mail and packages, and I too get the side-eye from people. I genuinely don’t care because I’m taking all precautions to save my own life. I’m sorry the idiots around you feel the need to ask those condescending ass questions – what other people are doing to protect themselves, for whatever reasons (underlying health issues usually being the culprit), are of no concern to them. People really need to learn to mind the business that pays them.

      1. Captain*

        That’s definitely what boggles me. They know I’m required to wear a face covering, (At work) I have made reference to my inability to wear a mask, without disclosing diagnosis… yet ha ha…how dare I be a team player, spending my own money.

        Ironically, my department considered shields for my whole team because they’re better for trauma informed care, so I know it’s just those few rotten apples as it were.

    3. Artemesia*

      The shield would not protect your stylist if you were infectious. Her masks only protects her if you are also masked — just as if she were only wearing a shield you would not have been adequately protected. A very lightweight gaiter type mask is not fabulously protective but better than a shield and would probably be both sufficiently comfortable and modestly protective. I have a couple that are quite comfortable although I now only wear medical masks since the evidence is pretty clear that for those of us in a vulnerable group, the cloth masks are inadequate protection. There is the famous case of the two stylists who were infected with COVID and served over 150 people — NONE got sick because the stylists wore masks and so did the clients. This is a setting where infection is highly likely because of the close proximity.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Wow. People make fun of a face shield? That’s just nasty.

      I’m glad your stylist was able to work with you.

      A friend of a roomie can’t wear close fitting masks. So she makes hers to tie in back and hang loosely from the nose way down past the chin, thus not impeding breathing/face motion while still catching exhaled droplets.

  7. Nofloridaforme*

    I seriously question anyone judgment if they go to Florida right now. I have several FB acquaintances who have gone and they leave me shaking my head. One being a nurse.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I have a friend who just returned – her parents live in Florida, and they gave her a big ol’ guilt trip about visiting and said it might be the only time she’d see them this year. BUT … she wasn’t going to any theme parks, she didn’t hang out anywhere in public or see anyone else; she wore a mask and a face shield in the airport/on the plane; her parents are both getting tested regularly and she just got tested now that she’s back. So even though I still kinda wish she hadn’t gone, she was as smart about it as possible. The woman in the letter above, on the other hand…

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just explaining why she went — obviously I can’t control what my friend who lives in another state does!

        2. Artemesia*

          We were seeing our son every 2 or 3 months — don’t know when we will again as it involves cross country flying. Our daughter and grandchildren live locally and we have had to give up the weekly overnights with the kids and family dinners etc — we meet Sunday evenings for an out door walk masked — the biggest loss so far for us has been missing out on the closeness with these kids during the years when little kids adore being with their grands —

        3. A Teacher*

          Same here, as are my husband’s. We may not see them for months or even years, who knows? No sympathy.

      1. nofloridaforme*

        Most of these people went on vacation. Were at crowded beaches and restaurants.

    2. Yeah_I know*

      An acquaintance had to go to FL for work. She got covid while she was there and gave it to another coworker she was stuck in a car with for several hours. But, amazingly, she was in the office for a full week before symptoms showed up and didn’t give it to any other coworkers, because everyone in the office wears masks.

      1. blackcat*

        One of my husbands coworkers got COVID after a (work) trip to Texas. Fortunately the business had the good sense to put him up in a hotel for 5 days after returning (to isolate from his wife), and got him a test. He has entirely asymptomatic (though he’s still isolating), but the entire thing is a huge pain. Even for a business taking tons of precautions, it’s just stupid to be sending people on work trips right now. Given the total costs of having sent him, it seems really hard to justify from a business perspective.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Honestly! Plane trip + possible hotel in TX + certain hotel back home + probably feeding him the whole time = a whole lot more than hours of quality video-meeting.

          Someone needs to look at their budget AND think hard about “what if he did get sick and died because I made him take that trip?”

          1. blackcat*

            So coworker complained about this! Their life insurance through work pays out double if they die on a work trip. But he *called and asked* about dying from COVID in the home state, from acquiring COVID through work. Turns out, it would be the regular payout, because it is clearly “dying while on a work trip” not “dying *because of* a work trip.”

      2. Eva Luna*

        One of my childhood friends flew to his father’s funeral in FL. (In May, before the recent flare-up.) Under the circumstances, I don’t think anyone would have blamed him if he didn’t go, but he had to help his mom. (His dad died of cancer, not COVID.)

    3. Camellia*

      I live in Florida. My work has pivoted and let us work from home until the end of the year.

      My supervisor spent last week at Disney in Orlando. Today in our team’s conference meeting, she said she wants to get the team together for a group lunch this week.

      I said I would be skipping that, thanks.

    4. Another freelancer*

      I have a friend who traveled from a Covid hotspot to a state that’s doing OK (by comaprison), all because she just had to see her family. It’s like she thinks she and her family are all magically immune to this.

  8. Observer*

    #1- Anyone who claims that the ADA does not permit an employer / service provider to ask about the medical condition that forbids wearing a mask it either ignorant or lying. (The people who started these chains ARE lying.) Because the ADA most definitely does NOT say that.

    In fact the ADA explicitly allows a request for documentation of the need. So, while you may not be entitled to know the details, you most definitely CAN ask enough questions to make it difficult for someone to lie about it or “imply” a disability, and have it stand.

    1. an infinite number of monkeys*

      When I see people on Facebook make that claim, they generally accompany it with “#HIPPA” [sic]

      (insert eyeroll emoji here)

      1. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

        I’ve seen some try to claim that it is a violation of the 4th amendment of the US constitution, despite the fact that no one’s property is being searched nor seized. Also, in many states, there’s no government body involved whatsoever, just a private business.

        1. Gaia*

          This is just our regular reminder that many people think “I want X” naturally equates to “there is a law/ammendment that guarantees X.” Not always so, my friends, not always so.

      2. fogharty*

        I’ve seen people who say it’s a violation of HIPAA for anyone store clerks, security guards, restaurant staff, etc. to even aska customer about a medical condition / disability / why “can’t” you wear a mask and that the person asking will be fined and possibly jailed.

        That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.

        1. doreen*

          I think they may be mixing it up with service animals, where the ADA only allows you to ask if the animal is required due to a disability and which task(s) the animal has been trained to perform. You can’t ask for documentation or about the person’s disability ( of course, some will be obvious by the nature of the task).

          1. Artemesia*

            And the gross abuse of that may well lead to a change in that policy — and alas it should.

          2. fogharty*

            I thought service animals had to be licensed. At least, that was my impression when my aunt had a therapy dog (they visited hospitals and nursing homes.) Of course, this was many years ago, but IIRC the dog had to have special classes, and wear a labeled harness/vest, and my aunt had to provide documentation when asked. This was in California, mid-late 1990s.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Service dogs (or horses) do not have to be licensed. I’m not sure why, but there’s not a government body that approves animals or their training programs.

            2. Metadata minion*

              Therapy dogs who go to hospitals/businesses/etc. and provide a service to people there have different rules from a service animal for an individual. Many people train their own service dogs and they don’t require any sort of official license.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Exactly. If my doctor wants me to have a certain type accommodation, they’ll put it in writing what the need is.

      These idjits trying to use the ADA to dodge their responsibility to wear a mask frost my jets.

      I *need* the ADA to be able to work and live. I became disabled 25 years ago, and the ADA has only been around for 30 years. Back then, it was an uphill battle because so many people didn’t understand it and didn’t want to make basic accommodations to allow people like me to just do ordinary stuff. I swear it’s only been in the last fifteen years that the great big stores had mobility carts, for example.

    3. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

      The ADA does not permit public accommodations (entities who offer goods/services to the public) to inquire into the nature or extend of an individual’s claimed disability. I think you are mixing this up with employers, where they are permitted to request some documentation as to any requested accommodation from an employee.

      Under no circumstances should a business open to the public “ask enough questions” about someone’s claimed inability to wear a mask. That’s a lawsuit. You can offer accommodations – Alison’s advice is on point – without inquiring into the person’s own condition.

  9. Justme, the OG*

    Poster #6, I work in academia. We’ve shut off all the water fountains but have kept the bottle filling stations. I’m also fairly sure that’s what my kid’s K12 school is doing this school year.

    1. HoHumDrum*

      I didn’t realize water was such an issue! I was under the impression we now know that COVID travels primarily through air vapor from an infected person, hence the need for masks and social distancing. Why stop water fountains? Or remove fridges?

      1. ThatGirl*

        I honestly don’t think water IS a big issue, although maybe there’s something with people drinking straight from a fountain that I’m missing. But some of it, I suspect, is an overreaction to the idea that surfaces are a possible source of transmission – lots of people touching the fountain? In reality, even high-touch surfaces are unlikely to cause problems unless someone is sneezing or coughing directly on it *repeatedly*, but some of this is “sanitation theater” at this point.

        1. Natalie*

          Possibly also an attempt to prevent people from crowding together as they wait for a water fountain.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          Oh god, you’ve giving me flashbacks to that Parks & Rec episode about how everyone in Pawnee puts their whole mouth over the fountain to drink. I hope it’s just fear of surfaces and not because that episode was true to life!

            1. Quill*

              When my high school finally put in water bottle fillers that were separate from the fountain nozzles they cited the germtasticness of the fountain nozzles as the reason. Even if you don’t touch the nozzle your saliva is in prime transferring range.

          1. ThatGirl*

            LOL I did think of that one. I’ve never seen anyone do that in real life, though.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I’ve watched people ahead of me touch their mouth to the fountain spout. I wiped it off before I used the fountain, even with not touching the spout.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, far too many people put their mouths *on* the water fountain spout to drink from it. That’s “ewww” in the best times, now it’s “uh, no way”. So the best solution is to shut down water fountains and leave the bottle filling stations and water coolers.

      2. Colette*

        Because people breathe onto the water fountains, and some people touch them with their mouths (either because they don’t know how to use them or because they misjudge how close they are.)

      3. Diahann Carroll*

        Because people have to touch these things after they’ve possibly sneezed or coughed in their hands, dug in or blew their noses, etc. The virus lives on certain surfaces anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, and no one is 100% positive about how this virus is transmitted, hence the changing directives.

      4. TooTiredToThink*

        I can’t speak to fridges (that doesn’t make sense to me right now); but water fountains have long been known as potential vectors of germs – because people’s mouths get right up on them and sometimes spit in them right before getting water. All I know is that I wouldn’t be using them right now if it at all possible.

        Google just gave me this gem of a headlie: STUDY: TOILETS CLEANER THAN DRINKING FOUNTAINS

        1. HoHumDrum*

          Someone at the Atlantic just wrote a great piece on “hygiene theater”- I would link but I know that delays posts. But anyways, perhaps the fridges are due to that.

      5. Venus*

        In our case we have specifically been told that the concern is because water has been stagnant in the pipes for months, which means that dangerous things may be growing in our water supply. Many of us will be working from home until at least the new year, so the water supply will continue to be a problem while they aren’t frequently used. It’s a reasonable worry! They are dealing with it by limiting our use of water to one or two faucets so that those don’t stagnate, and pushing us to run the water for at least 2 minutes if we want to drink it.

        1. Quinalla*

          This is a legitimate concern, but there are ways to properly flush out a building water supply to deal with this, hopefully building maintenance staff and building owners are figuring this out!

          I agree that drinking directly from the tap is a disease vector for sure, especially when kids use them as they tend to accidentally touch pieces to their face/mouth. If there are bottle fillers, the fountain should be left on and just block off the tap. I don’t think it is super at risk way to get COVID which mostly spreads through the air, but it is possible. And yeah, I agree that if anyone is standing in line for the drinking fountain, that’s where the bigger COVID risk is. Best to have customers bring in their own water, encourage any employees/students/etc. to the do the same and have alternative potable water for employees if a drinking fountain was your only source.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            E.g. Legionella. To combat that, you need to flush out the pipes to all the outlets, either really hot or really cold – or hyperchlorinate the water to kill off the germs (in that case, bacteria).

        2. Emily*

          Your building manager should flush the water systems before people return to the building. Diseases like Legionnaire’s actually usually spread when people inhale the water droplets, so things like central air conditioners that use cooling towers, and even possibly flushing toilets, can be an issue.

        3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          There are some jobs that are impossible to do remotely, for example specialist repairs on production facilities. In those cases, the expenses (including quarantine) can be justified.
          Last year, I traveled over 100,000 miles for work. This year? 2,000 so far. Every trip requires a thorough risk assessment, even if it’s just in town. International travel requires C-suite approval (11,000 employee multinational).

    2. OP6*

      I’m the OP for #6 and I agree – the water bottle refill stations are hands-free and I don’t understand the thinking behind shutting it off. I suspect enough employees complained because they’re now supplying bottles water to offices that request it (thankfully!), but the students still don’t have access and it will disproportionately affect students of lower socio-economic status. I’m sick about it, honestly.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Perhaps it’s a disinfection issue? The spouts on fountains and refill stations are not always cleaned adequately. There can be splashback when coworkers or customers refill cups and bottles.

    3. CDM*

      My daughter’s college in a hot humid state has also announced water fountains are off but bottle filling stations are available.

      I don’t necessarily think turning fountains off is an overreaction, I see an astounding number of people who never learned to drink from one without making direct contact with it with their mouth. I couldn’t tell you the last time I used a water fountain because of that.

      1. Artemesia*

        I see kids put their mouths on the fountain but lots of adults sort of rinse their mouth and spit or let the water flow out before drinking — I may never drink from a fountain again LOL

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can remember seeing that and doing that as a kid. Picture sitting all day in a 90 degree classroom and the only water you had was at recess/breaks. For whatever reason the stream coming out of the fountain was so tiny that your nose would end up under the shield above the water flow. Adult me now understands that I was wicked dehydrated. Young me did not understand the dizziness, the listlessness, the random aches and pains… all I knew is that I could barely get a few ounces of water each day at school. No one carried water bottles back then. Even if we did think of it I am sure we would not be allowed to have them at our desks.

          Making matters worse, some days the nun would not allow us to take a drink. So we’d whisper to each other “Hurry up, here she comes….”. No one cared about the mouth on the faucet thing.

  10. Phony Genius*

    On #6, water from a hot water heater is not considered potable, according to the EPA, due to possible leaching of metals from the tank and pipes. Sinks that give lukewarm water are mixing hot and cold water, so I would not drink that water, regardless of the supply.

    I do not understand why bottle refilling stations have been turned off. Nor refrigerators. You can operate those things with gloves and/or holding a paper towel.

    1. TiffIf*

      The return to office guidance for my work (which has yet to be implemented–they keep pushing the date back as cases rise) has the breakrooms (where there is a ice/water machine and refrigerators) are off limits–my guess is that it is two fold reasoning–reducing contact with shared surfaces and discouraging congregating. They will be giving out bottled water.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        We aren’t allowed to use our office kitchen for any reason except getting water. No fridge, no microwave, but they stressed we can get water from the filtered water, probably because of regulations.

        1. Galloping Gargoyles*

          We’ve asked staff to limit the number of people in the break room to 2 at a time, only one person per table. We haven’t limited access to the fridge or microwaves but have asked people to clean them each time they are used. Turning off the fridges and microwaves could make it hard for some people to bring a meal; that could be a socio-economic issue similar to the bottle water one mentioned above. Some people may not be able to afford to go out to eat and there is inherent risk in that, or may not be able to afford a good lunch box or non-perishable food to have for lunch. There is so much unknown about this with such rapidly changing information that it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Going out to eat is actually a greater risk! Plus, it’s very expensive if you do it every day.

    2. Cj*

      I do understand to bottle refilling being turned off because people have a tendency to put the tip of the bottle too close (or even over) the “spout”. They should probable have disposable cups available, or at least require the use of something like a refillable mug or a water bottle with a large opening so you aren’t tempted to hold it as close as you would if you refill something like a disposable water bottle.

    3. In Hot Water*

      Eh, lukewarm water doesn’t necessarily mean it’s coming from a water heater. Here in central Texas our faucet’s cold tap regularly dispenses warm water during the hottest parts of summer. You can always tell when someone’s new to the area when it gets hot and they start asking for plumber recs on Nextdoor because their cold tap water is warm.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        They say they are in Michigan. I live in Wisconsin and that’s not usually a thing here.

  11. LGC*

    On letter 2 – this is location dependent, but certain states have travel advisories out for…most of the country at this point. So she may HAVE to self quarantine under law. (Executive order, whatever.)

    This is something I’m stuck worrying about myself. Although my company made the decision and mandated that any states on the advisory list required two weeks off from the day of return, so I’m in a different situation.

    1. StuckWFH*

      The thing is, no one is really checking people and enforcing the laws. There’s no one at the airports gathering people returning from “must quarantine” states. How would anyone find out unless some reported them to the Health Department or whatever office is in charge of things like that. I’m very curious about how it would work. I DO think she shouldn’t be allowed back in the office. She’s already shown poor judgement on numerous occasions.

      The only state I’ve heard that has actually fined people is Hawaii and that’s because tourists were being dumb and their hotels reported them (and rightfully so).

      1. LGC*

        From what I understand, New York is also coming down hard on people and checking at airports (and justifiably so). My particular state (New Jersey) is part of the group, but hasn’t taken quite as strong action.

        But I think difficult to enforce is not the point here – they already know she’s going to a high risk area.

        1. doreen*

          New York is absolutely checking at airports- I know some of the people doing the checking.

      2. Cj*

        True. But the employer knows it, and if their state requires quarantine upon return from Florida or Texas, would they be breaking the law/liable if they allow her to return to work right away?

    2. Ashley*

      In my state it is voluntary but recommended to quarantine. Depending on the person and the job description is how much people are doing it. There have been questions about why people are traveling but the company hasn’t wanted to put up a policy saying you can’t leave the state because to many managers have already done the stupid thing of going to high risk states.
      I would push back on this and might encourage you to look up info from the WHO about aerosol transmission which they say needs to be studied further. At a minimum they should have to wear their mask constantly in the office but then again our state says all the time and the office unofficial policy basically matches your office.
      The bigger the group the better but at some point I hope your company realizes if you get sick you plan to be home and how many others will have to and which is a worse risk.

    3. PenicilliumIHardlyKnowEm*

      That’s what I was thinking. My state currently has over 30 other states on their “must quarantine”list. While it is largely self-enforced, it would give OP standing to push back against bringing Jane back to the office at all.

      1. LGC*

        So, I already noted my state. My boss sent out a list of the states where you have to self-quarantine recently, and I was extremely tempted to reply to her that it’d be easier to list the states where you don’t have to self-quarantine.

        I didn’t, of course. But I should have.

  12. Khatul Madame*

    Performance review letter – do a video call. The company may not be into video “culturally” for big conference calls, but it makes so much sense for a 1×1, especially since you appreciate the importance of non-verbal behavior.
    This is the time to be flexible. Do not risk your employee’s and your own health for a performance conversation.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      This. You can just as easily see the report’s body language over video as you can see it in person. And I guarantee the report’s body language is going to be way more relaxed if she can stay home than if she were made to come into an office for a half hour conversation (I would be mad as hell).

    2. A Regular Who Doesn't Want To Identify For This*

      I wonder if LW doesn’t view video calls as “real meetings.” You know, being the same room is “real”?

      I am dealing with this situation now, as in “You didn’t really meet, you used Skype, that’s not the same.”

      I am open to any suggestions on how to ask broach the subject that if Skype and Zoom meetings are not going to be considered real, how are “real” meetings be defined going forward? At my job meeting in person is STRONGLY discouraged. My supervisor would like to meet in person. Their supervisor won’t allow it.

      1. JustaTech*

        The only case where I can see someone saying that meeting over Skype isn’t “real” is when you’re talking about a romantic relationship. As in, it’s more than phone but less than in person.

        But for work? Video calls are “real” meetings, just like conference calls are “real” meetings.

        I had a situation earlier this year where I was going to *have* to travel to a site to do in-person meetings, but that was specifically because we were not allowed by company policy to do the site walk-though by video. (Which makes sense, too easy to hide stuff, and they didn’t want recordings of their space.) Thankfully it’s all moot now, but for pretty much everything a video conference is plenty “real”.

        Regular, you supervisor is being difficult for no clear reason. I’m sorry.

      2. LW #4*

        Hi LW #4 here. We are absolutely conducting business remotely. Skype meetings are very real meetings. Culturally, we don’t do video calls for whatever reason; I think I have had one video call since we were sent home March 13. I have been into the office or plant twice for meetings that truly needed to be in person. My direct reports are going into the plant most days to do their job, which isn’t possible to do remotely. (I neglected to include this fact in the original question.) I am trying to be accommodating to what their wishes are for the review — I offered either calls or travelling to them in person.

        1. Bippity*

          O/T but it’s nice to know that someone is still using Skype. Poor Skype. This should be their big moment but they’ve been crushed under the weight of the mighty Zoom.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Nah, Microsoft killed Skype to push Teams instead. I’d much rather be using Skype btw.

    3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I’ll go further and say the middle of a pandemic is not a good time to conduct formal midyear reviews. I would see about maybe a casual conversation about the big-picture and defer anything formal for some time. You should be having regular feedback anyway for constructive criticism.

      1. LW #4*

        Mid-year reviews are not optional at my company. I’m giving regular feedback & so nothing documented/discussed should be a surprise at this meeting. But I can’t not have the meeting.

    4. Person of Interest*

      Why not ask your employee what she should prefer? Even if video isn’t your office norm, she may use it regularly in other parts of life and be most comfortable with that option versus phone or in-person.

    5. Pilcrow*

      Yes, do a video call.

      My company has distributed teams across the US and my manager is in a different time zone than me (I’m Midwest, she’s East coast). All of our meetings and reviews, even pre-COVID, were phone calls. We’ve shifted to video calls now.

      This setup made our company adapt easier to working from home because we already were using Teams and conference calls. In fact, nobody in the office has an actual telephone; we have laptops, Teams (previously, Skype), and a headset.

    6. Clisby*

      Or a phone call. I worked remotely for around 18 years, and my performance reviews were all by phone. I sent my self-assessment to my manager; my manager added his comments; he emailed it to me; and within a day or two we set up a phone call to go over it.

    7. Anon Scientist*

      A third option:
      I have met with some coworkers in person, outdoors, at opposite ends of a long table or with chairs on the driveway.

      Those meetings have been rare, and in our case we live near to each other in communities that have very few cases, so this may not be an option for many people. Yet those in-person conversations during a time of physical isolation have been helpful for my mental health.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Only if the weather is mild. Here in mid-Atlantic it’s brutally hot during the day and only cools down somewhat at dusk = outside of work hours.
        I would greatly enjoy an in-person meeting with my boss and/or coworkers (properly distanced of course), but it just isn’t practical.

      2. Alanna*

        That’s also going to be a weird environment for a performance review, though! So at that point, since it’s going to be weird either way, might as well do the safer weird thing.

      3. Taniwha Girl*

        Personally I would prefer the sense of privacy of a phone or video call than chairs on a driveway.

        I’d rather not have my neighbors overhear my boss checking in on my work performance as she yells across the driveway!

    8. Sparrow*

      Agreed. OP doesn’t need to try to change the company culture for this to make sense. My office isn’t big into video meetings either – I usually don’t have more than one a week – but when I “met” with my boss for my performance review last week, it was over video. Personally, I massively prefer to have one-on-one conversations with her over video instead of phone because of the body language element.

  13. Admin in Arkansas*

    #6 is interesting because at my university the directive is that water fountains will be turned off but bottle fill stations will not and there is an active planning effort to replace all drinking fountains with the bottle fill stations.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I really hope that one of the (minor) outcomes of all of this is a drastic increase in bottle-filling stations, like, EVERYWHERE.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. My campus has been switching these out for a while, but now we’re expediting the process.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      And honestly! Water fountains were the big step up from water buckets with communal cups (or ladles, like that early scene in Blazing Saddles). They were already on their way out but you know what ended them completely? That would be a big ol’ pandemic in 1917-1918, known as the Spanish Flu.

      1. Eva Luna*

        When I studied in Russia in 1989, there were still fizzy water machines on the street with communal cups. Not everywhere, but not rare, either.

  14. Beth Jacobs*

    It’s strange that OSHA doesn’t allow for a kitchen tap where potable (as opposed to a bathroom tap, which I get why it isn’t okay). I know it’s irrelevant for the OP, but in places with good tap water, it’s the easiest and most green option. I’m in Europe and though my current workplace has a hot/cold/sparkling dispenser connected to the water supply, I’ve used the kitchen tap in two previous workplaces with no issues.

    1. doreen*

      I thought that looked bizarre- taken literally, it would mean that restaurants would be prohibited from expecting employees to use the same glasses given to customers ( as that standard requires single-use cups) . But then I noticed those standards apply to shipyard employment – this standard seems to apply in general and doesn’t require drinking fountains ( but does have rules about portable water dispensers)

    2. Granger*

      Agree! I’ve been googling it and a few places say that break room sinks are allowed – ? (but not bathroom sinks), but I can’t find anything from a reputable source.

  15. Malarkey01*

    The ADA has never given you the right to endanger other people. I am beyond annoyed that people are abusing disability policies to avoid a mask. Stay home or have curbside pickup if you can’t wear a mask. Really evaluate what is “essential for survival” (and it’s not the liquor store, clothing retail, hair stylist, or dine in restaurant-all places I’ve seen people fight masks).

    I am truly sympathetic for those that have difficulties with a mask, but we are in a global pandemic- if your breathing is so compromised by a mask you should be the very first person isolating at home. The ADA does not give you permission to spread a plague.

    1. Observer*

      The ADA has never given you the right to endanger other people.

      This, 1,000x over. That’s why I said earlier that the people who set these rumors going are liars.

      I am beyond annoyed that people are abusing disability policies to avoid a mask

      Yes. Especially since it also harms people with genuine need for accommodation, in this respect and any other respect.

    2. Bippity*

      It’s very true that most of that is non-essential (and I have to say I’m really shocked that Americans can still go do all these things – where I live most non-essential shops and businesses are still closed; cinemas are still closed, gyms are still closed, you can buy a Starbucks but collect it at a little walk-up plexiglass window and not go inside).

      But not everyone has access to online grocery delivery (I was told a statistic the other day by a disabled organisation I work for that 50% of disabled people in a particular area don’t have internet access), and of course people still need to go outside for medical appointments and some people have to work. I know someone who is shielding due to being extremely medically vulnerable but she’s being forced to go back to her job as a supermarket cashier because they won’t pay for her to stay at home for longer, she either has to go back to work or quit her job entirely and if she quits she can’t pay her rent. Even if she applied got disability benefits, the process of applying takes 14 weeks. I also live in a country where double amputees and people with terminal cancer are regularly found “fit for work” by the disability benefits officers, and denied benefits.

      That is unfortunately the reality of being disabled/seriously ill today.

  16. Observer*

    #4 – Please don’t even consider making your employee do the evaluation in person. If your employee is taking the situation seriously, even if she’s not panicking, she IS going to resent this. And with good reason. Asking people to take risks without a really good reason is a very good reason for people to resent you.

    You say that you think you’ll be able to see more if you are in person, but you’ve admitted that the mask would cover her face anyway. Furthermore, what do you really expect when someone is stressed and upset already? Beyond which, you haven’t worked face to face since you stated, so you don’t even have a baseline to compare with. Which means that unless her responses are really, really strong, you might not really understand what you are seeing anyway.

    If you REALLY think that seeing each other will be useful, then do a video call. The idea that it’s better to put someone are risk rather than do something that is not in your typical culture is …. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around it and being polite about it.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yes please do a video call. You said you are a new manager, take this time to think about what kind of manager do you want to be. Do you want to be the kind of manager who makes her reports extra anxious just to satisfy some checklist the manager has? that’s a good way to lose good people. Even in this economy good people will always have options to go elsewhere. You want to be the kind of manager that people want to work for, not get away from.

      There is literally no legitimate reason that the review has to be in person. Your company is still WFH, why change that for just the review?

    2. LW #4*

      Hi — I’m LW #4. One thing I forgot to mention is that my direct reports are going into work every day; they work in a few different manufacturing facilities and need to be on site. They are okay with going into the plant daily, although they do WFH when there is no floor work to be done. I would travel to their sites for these meetings. I appreciate the effort to be polite, and already scheduled the meetings as calls.


      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        You might just help shift company culture toward more video meetings, too! (They *are* harder for larger meetings, that is true, but change has to start somewhere.)

      2. stiveee*

        This is good context. Before I read this I thought you were pulling people into the office who would otherwise be at home, perhaps making then take public transit or arrange childcare, and putting them at risk just to try and gauge their body language for an hour or so. If they are on-site already it’s still a good idea to minimize contact with others, but the in-person option is less egregious than I thought.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. To die or infect your family in order to do an in person performance review? Seriously? And many people will have to face additional exposure just getting there.

  17. Natalie*

    #2, IMO the problem with all of this wipe down procedure isn’t that Jane might not comply, it’s that this is essentially security theater. Surface transmission is virtually unknown, the transmission vector here is the person walking around in the building and hanging out in the kitchen while potentially exhaling infectious virus. They can’t disinfect her lungs, ergo she should be at home.

    1. Dumpster Fire*

      Clearly Jane isn’t taking any of the precautions seriously (she went to DISNEY! in FLORIDA!), so I certainly wouldn’t trust her to clean as well as she should, or to comply with other requests. Depending on your state, there may be (and I might go so far as to say, probably is) a requirement that she isolate for 10-14 days – even if it’s not being rigorously enforced, you and your coworkers should insist on it. It’s one thing for a recent arrival to run to the grocery store; it’s entirely another for a recent arrival to spend full work-days in a building with other people who have been compliant.

      1. Kares*

        Did I miss something. No where in the actual comment from #2 does it say Jane went to Disney. Florida is a big state with lots of isolated areas. Is this something overlooked or a presumption?

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          It’s in the title, so it was probably in the original letter. (“My coworker wants to come back to work … after an extended Disney vacation”)

          (Don’t worry about it! My wife and I joke all the time about not seeing titles of things, and we’re both big readers.)

        2. Red lines with wine*

          The title of the letter has “Disney” in it. Let’s presume that was the LW’s subject line.

          1. Kares*

            Thanks. I have friends that have been social distancing in the middle of no where Florida. Their nearest neighbor is 5 miles away. Yet, they get *hate* from people because they went to Florida.

            1. Alice*

              I’m not hating your friends, but did they somehow get to the middle of nowhere, Florida, without gas stations or airports?

              1. Kares*

                Their cabin is a three hour drive from the larger city they mainly live in. So, half a tank of gas. Everything else is less contact than they would have at their main house.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I assumed the header for that question was either the actual email subject or else one Alison made with knowledge that that is where the coworker was. It would be a pretty random thing for her to have just made up.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            (Sorry I had this page open since yesterday, I should have refreshed and would have seen Alison had already confirmed this!)

    2. JSPA*

      It’s possible that Jane (and perhaps her manager) may believe (or even know?) that Jane was Covid positive at some point during the time when her son had it, and they may presume that means she’s no longer a risk. And I could see them not disclosing out of respect for her privacy (i.e. if it happened when people had already been notified of a “Jane-related” risk, or she became positive while at home anyway, due to the kid). But

      a) we don’t know if that’s really how resistance is going to work, with Covid
      b) there’s always some tiny risk of false positives, as well as plenty of false negatives
      c) if Jane wants to disclose (or have the office disclose) as part of an argument on “why we would not do what the state is asking or telling us to do,” Jane is free to bring that up.

      “We have business needs” and “we have information we’re not at liberty to share, so trust us” are not reasons to negate a standard quarantine process. “Trust us” doesn’t cut it. And Jane is not going to magically de-aerosolize the bathroom, even if she does scrub.

    3. JSPA*

      Surface transmission is vanishingly rare, but it’s vanishingly rare in the context of everyone being told to wash endlessly and sterilize everything. If everyone had been told to mask at the very beginning, but nobody had mentioned soap and water, we might have seen different patterns of transmission. (And we may yet see them, as people shift focus.)

  18. Aggretsuko*

    They’ve shut off all the water fountains and water refill at my office, so I’m told. They have them shut off at my HMO, for that matter. Shutting off people’s ability to get water is common now, whether it’s “right” or not.

  19. Dust Bunny*

    Um, no, Jane needs to stay home and not share bathrooms, hallway space, kitchenette, and *ventilation systems* with any other employees. Your bosses can suck it up and let her telework until she’s clear.

  20. Exhausted Trope*

    OP5, oh, my gosh! My jaw kept dropping lower and lower the further I read. I feel terrible for you. Run fast, run far, OP! I do think reporting your trash CEO to the board is a good idea but it’s wise to get out of that hell hole. Glad you are escaping and best of luck to you!

    1. SMH*

      I would absolutely send an open letter to the board asking them to intervene immediately. Unless the entire staff agrees that you can sign it ‘Current Employees’ or whatever makes sense I would state in the letter that employees are too afraid of being fired to come forward. If the board does not act quickly or there is retaliation I would reach out to local news and see if they would cover the story and/or report that the non profit is putting employee’s lives at risk. This could get board members and the CEO replaced which sounds like it is needed.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The ex-evil-scientist part of me would be tempted to call up a few mates in the biocontainment industry and try to get the entire building disinfected. With the CEO in it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I wonder if I can get my mate Dave to find an old Racal biohazard suit we could put your CEO in. Then seal it shut…

          (Bad Keymaster! You promised to keep your evil thoughts to below 50 per day!)

    3. OP5*

      Thank you so much for the validation, I have been really back and forth about whether I’m overreacting. Alison replied to me personally right away, which was such a nice surprise, and it helped me get out of my head about it. Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse since I wrote in. I am giving notice at the end of the week and have been working on a letter to the board that I believe a couple people will cosign with me. My only concern is that the board is more on the CEO’s side of things than I would like… but it certainly can’t hurt to let them know more specifically what’s going on. Under normal circumstances her behavior would be demoralizing but in a pandemic it’s worse than that.

      Thanks again for the support, truly.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’m sorry you have to leave your job over this. I hope you find something way better soon.

      2. Steveo*

        When you talk to the board, if you really want their attention, make it clear that the CEO is endangering the enterprise with his reckless behavior. “What if this was on the news?” – as callous as it sounds, they will care more about safeguarding the non-profit than the employees. Hopefully the actions they take will do both.

      3. Kaaaaaren*

        OP5 – You’re definitely not overreacting. The CEO’s behavior — from calling people selfish for wanting to protect their health and the health of their family members by WFH to insisting you come into the office two weeks early as a punitive measure — has been APPALLING. The Board may take the CEO’s side, but most decent people would be just as shocked to learn about this behavior as the AAM readers are.

        Send the letter anonymously, sign it “Current Employees of Organization” and remember to say that it’s being sent anonymously due to concerns about retaliation. Also he sure to mention that the org serves at-risk communities and yet the CEO is being just about as unkind and uncharitable as a person can be with the org’s workforce.

  21. Precious Wentletrap*

    “every minute spent caring for your child is a minute not working for our organization”

    Yeah, well, every minute spent writing that email was a minute not spent at the bottom of the sea

    1. Artemesia*

      Once again evidence that being a psychopath is useful for promotion to management.
      And your comment is so apt. The number of moral monsters walking among is breathtaking (in all senses of the word)

  22. Robyn*

    I don’t know why they are shutting down the bottle refill stations since you don’t have to touch anything other than your bottle (at least that is how it works on our campus). They are shutting down the water fountain part of the refill stations but not turning off the bottle part. Seems like overkill to me.

  23. Bigglesworth*

    OP 2 – ugh. I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with this. It’s crazy how many people still think the pandemic is blown out of proportion or not as serious as it actually is.

    I have several friends taking the bar exam tomorrow and Wednesday and people fly in from all over to take the exam. One of my good law school friends asked her firm if they wanted her to come in or work remotely for two weeks to see if she’s positive after being exposed to hundreds of people in a confined area. Even though they said she’s ok to come in, they’re taking extra precautions with everyone and seem to be treating this seriously.

    1. DLW*

      Wow, they’re actually having an in-person exam. After lots of resistance, and first just delaying it, Illinois has decided to give the bar exam remotely. It’s the responsible thing to do.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        Several states are having in-person exams. The last count I saw was 23.

        To be honest, I’ve become a proponent of diploma privilege. With the bar exam’s racist history and the boards of bar examiners showing an obvious lack of regard for future professionals trying to enter the industry, it makes sense to reevaluate why we have the bar exam in the first place. If recent graduates are not minimally competent after achieving their J.D., then let’s reevaluate law school education standards.

  24. tyrannosaurus vex*

    #5, I completely agree that the board needs to know. But just this week one of my coworkers was terminated (rightly so, I think) for going to board members with complaints about her supervisor and the ED. How do you make the call when to go over your boss’s head?

    1. NW Mossy*

      Risking the health and safety of staff (as posed in #5) is absolutely a “go over their head” situation. People can die from or be seriously debilitated by COVID-19, and no one can predict exactly what outcome would happen to any given person infected. When the situation can reasonably be classed as “risk of death,” you escalate.

      In general, going over someone’s head should happen after you’ve exhausted first-line alternatives (direct discussion with your boss, etc.), a reasonable person would consider it serious, and the consequences of the problem remaining unresolved are serious/worsening.

      “Complaints” are tricky. If you’re calling out unlawful or unethical behavior, that likely meets the standard to escalate. But if they’re more of the mildly annoying variety, escalating them generally reflects poorly on the complainer.

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        I would tend to think that interpersonal conflicts should probably not be escalated like this, but with issues relating to people’s actual lives and safety, or to laws being violated, or if an executive’s leadership style is somehow risking the whole organization (by causing mass quitting or something), then it’s okay to go above someone’s head. OP5’s CEO is CLEARLY unreasonable and is just begging to be ratted out to his superiors.

        Also, even if the board doesn’t do anything, getting called out to them might wake him up. He is behaving like a petty tyrant, completely unconcerned about the lives of his subordinates, and I think a large part of that probably comes from believing he is the absolute top dog. If the employees appeal to the board, it might bring him back down to earth. (It can also make him go completely berserk, but I think it’s worth the risk.)

  25. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP#4, I conducted performance evaluation meetings with my reports over Zoom this year. It actually went very well! Ordinarily, for an in-person meeting, I share my written evaluation with the person before our meeting and make copies for us to refer to during the meeting. This time, I sent the written evaluation before the meeting and shared my screen with them during the virtual meeting so we could both see it. It didn’t really feel too different from our in-person meetings, and we got everything accomplished that we needed to do.

    OP#5: your CEO is a garbage nightmare. Definitely report to the board, maybe as a group with some of your coworkers, and make sure you document everything the CEO has said and done that is putting you in danger!

    1. LW #4*

      I’m LW #4 — thanks for the tip on sharing the written review prior to the call. As I mentioned, I did a call with my manager for my review & he did a desktop share. Sharing the feedback prior to the meeting & sharing during the meeting seems like a good idea.

    2. Rebeck*

      OP4 – all my performance reviews at my current place of work (3+ years) have been over Zoom. I work 400km away from where my supervisor works. I have to admit I don’t entirely understand the problem.

  26. WellRed*

    I guess I don’t know how bottle refillers work. Are you potentially touching the lip of your bottle to the spout?

    1. Anon37*

      No, they’re really cool. You set your bottle down, and it pours from overhead. At least ours won’t activate if your bottle isn’t set down either, so you can’t be holding it up to it.

      1. Sparrow*

        That’s interesting, I’ve never used one that required you to set it down. My standard practice is to hold the bottle in front of the sensor until it’s filled up – the bottle doesn’t touch any part of the machine.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not if you’re doing it right! It’s basically just a motion-activated tube that arches up so you can fit a normal sized water bottle under it, turns on to dispense water when it senses a bottle underneath and off when it doesn’t.

    3. NotAPirate*

      Potentially yes. Some you can set the bottle down, most I’ve encountered you have to hold your bottle up high enough to get the sensor triggered. I’ve seen people open the drinking spout of their bottle and let the water pour into that instead of opening the bottle. So then there is potential risk of contaminating the whole thing. Likewise with the people refilling mugs/glasses off of them, you touch the lip of your mug to the wall below the sensor or where the water comes out, so does the next person….

      My water bottle is clear and I have to awkwardly hold my hand over the sensor to get it to fill.

      1. Cj*

        Sounds like some of them would be fine. What we have is Culligan water dispensed from a 5 gallon jog with a small spout, and it is very hard not to spill if you don’t put the tip of the bottle close. Ours is still available, but most of us have been using disposable water bottles the company has always provided for client, but employees generally refilled theirs at least several times (cancer concern if used to many times).

        The water dispenser is still being used for coffee, but you can hold that far under the spout, and nobody has had their lips on the carafe.

    4. ThatGirl*

      Most of them are activated by putting a bottle down OR pressing a button – no need to touch the lip of your bottle to anything. Refilling a bottle from a traditional water fountain is not quite the same.

  27. Anon37*

    #3 is tricky for me. I totally understand why some people need to stay home, but I also think it is a morale issue. People who report into the office are sacrificing safety, money, and time whereas people who stay home aren’t. To me, if there is a way to resolve any part of the equitable issue, I would do it because it would help morale.

    But I would NOT go into the office just for morale. Your death isn’t a morale booster either.

    1. OP#3*

      Yeah, I did everything I could equity wise here. Anyone else with medical certification didn’t need to come in and I have arranged it so people only need to come in once a week. I also shortened our hours, arranged for face shields in addition to masks, got plexiglas installed, arranged for us to provide the masks, and am taking full advantage of the technology. I feel horribly guilty nonetheless.

      1. anon37*

        I would not feel guilty. You have done everything you possibly could. People do notice when you try, and you clearly have. You cannot stop a pandemic. You can help your employees. You’ve done that. My hat is off to you. Stay safe and stay healthy.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like you’ve done a lot! You really undersold it in the letter. People only have to go in once a week? Like obviously that’s more than zero times, but that is clearly better than going in every day. And if the times they go in are staggered that’s a *huge* decrease to their risk. Please don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re doing great!

  28. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I understand the masks can be uncomfortable- I have panicked wearing them (anxiety, asthma, and crowded places don’t mix well). Still, I wear them, if only the paper kind, since that’s easier to breathe through.

    The only time I don’t wear it/only pull it on when I see someone near me is when I’m exercising, because it IS difficult to breathe while exerting myself. But 99% of that time, I am alone or outside, so it doesn’t make a difference. I can absolutely comply with business requirements! There’s no excuse. Especially with vulnerable people. The ADA has a “carve out” where if not following a requirement causes a direct threat to public safety, the accommodation of not making someone follow a requirement doesn’t have to be allowed.

    1. Observer*

      The ADA has a “carve out” where if not following a requirement causes a direct threat to public safety, the accommodation of not making someone follow a requirement doesn’t have to be allowed.

      Yes, this is an explicit part of the regulations. How anyone can claim that the ADA means that they can’t be required to wear mask nor take any other mitigating measures is mind boggling.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Another ‘I’m going to panic’ person here to show support (PTSD from abusive ex means stuff over my face is rather..bad. But I still wear the mask)

      I’ve found with the paper ones if I bend the wire bit on the nose really sharply (sharp V shape) it helps reduce the ‘smothered’ sensation and means I can get another 30 minutes out before freaking.

  29. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “Every minute spent caring for your child is a minute not working for our organization.”


      1. Quinalla*

        Definitely, this is ridiculous. I hope you are in a position where you can share this with the board!

      1. Sam.*

        Same. Does she seriously want them to leave their kids crying and hungry with no one to supervise them all day? “I want staff to endanger their children so that I get a full 40 hours of work out of them” is quite a take.

    1. whingedrinking*

      Also “what the hypothetical f*ck”, “what the nominal f*ck”, “what the projected f*ck”…

    2. Bippity*

      “Every minute spent caring for your child is a minute not re-enacting the movie 9-5.”

  30. The Other Dawn*


    We did our reviews over video and it was perfectly fine. Even though we weren’t in the same room, we were still essentially face-to-face. There’s no way I’d ask my employees to meet in person for their reviews; there’s no need. And I don’t think it matters whether or not there’s a culture of doing video calls. This isn’t the same as a multi-person meeting.

  31. FloraP*

    Water Fountains – At the university where I work the water fountains have been shut off for months. Part of the reasoning has less to do with COVID and more to do with the lack of people in the buildings. With fewer people in the buildings there is a greater concern for the water not being flushed, but is sitting in the plumbing and stagnating, with risks for bacterial and mold growth.

    1. Buni*

      When we were planning the reopening of our buildings one of the things I had to do was walk through flushing all the toilets and running all the taps. As my boss put it,

      “No point if we welcome everyone back Covid-free and promptly give them all Legionnaires…”.

      1. Observer*


        I know it’s really not funny, though. And I’m glad your boss was being smart about this.

    2. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

      I work in residential construction and we install re-circulating pumps in houses. It’s usually only for hot water, so it will return unused water in the hot water pipes back to the furnace so the water doesn’t sit and get cold. Ever been in a bathroom far away from the water heater and it takes a while to heat up the tap? The re-circulating pump eliminates that wait and keeps the hot water fresh. Super fancy!

      They’re also used in hospitals and hotels to keep the water in the pipes fresh. Too bad your university doesn’t have any!

  32. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I think free potable water is an OSHA requirement, and a fountain with a dedicated bottle refill shouldn’t cause COVID concerns.

    I attended a weeklong foreign language program, and despite their now having very few staff on site (to clean, caretake, and teach online programs), they have kept their fountains. They have a similar problem as with Michigan water- not all of it is safe, since they have a certified passive house as a cabin and need to put antifreeze compounds in the water for washing, since it’s heated by solar. The other buildings are a case of “you CAN drink it but you won’t WANT to,” since the site is near ore and taconite mines- it tastes metallic without filters.

    So effectively, there is one indoor and one outdoor drinking water tap for the campus. After some changes like social distancing if people line up, making sure bottles do not touch the taps, and wiping down surfaces, there was no reason to turn off fountains!

    It would be better to retrofit fountains to be bottle filling taps rather than turn it off altogether. Water is a need!

  33. Rosalita*

    OP 2 If this is massachusetts or a similar state Jane could face a fine for not quarantining after traveling. Your company may want to rethink having Jane come back to the office without quarantining first.

  34. Jaybeetee*

    LW5: No advice other than what Alison gave, just sympathy. Nothing worse than a CEO with a God complex. Your boss reminds me of the organ-seeking boss in another letter awhile back.

    1. OP5*

      Oof, I don’t remember that one – will have to go back and look! Thanks for the sympathy, it helps more than you know.

    2. Quill*

      Are we sure it isn’t the same guy? I presume all the medically ludicrous bosses from previous years haven’t improved during the pandemic

  35. Dezzi*

    PSA for folks who feel claustrophobic/anxious in masks, or who are just driven nuts by having a cloth mask touching your mouth and nose: mask brackets. Easily available on Amazon and other corners of the internet. Put one inside your mask and voila! It’s held slightly away from your face, making your mask much more comfortable and less obnoxious!

    Bonus: these let you wear lipstick without it being ruined by your mask.

    Hooray for #AdaptivePPE!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Do the mask brackets help with fogging glasses, by any chance? Two birds with one stone?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve had to relearn how to wear a mask so as not to fog up my glasses (been 20 years since I was in a virology lab) and mask brackets sound better than my ‘shove tissues on your cheekbones’ workarounds!

      2. mlk*

        I think you need a better/tighter fit along the top of the mask so if there’s a wire, try molding it to fit. I put my glasses (plastic frames, not wire, no separate nose pieces) over the top edge of the mask which seems to help in dry inland California. It didn’t help in hot, muggy Ohio.

        Along with the mask brackets, a blogger I follow has started sewing fabric-wrapped bendable “soft-tie” (rubber-coated wire, used in gardening) in 2 parallel lines (vertical) either side so you can shape the mask a bit and make a gap in front of your nose/mouth.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          When I make masks, the nose wire I use is 7″ long, instead of the usual 3″. (I use 15 ga aluminum wire [1.5mm] – it’s cheap, flexible, and won’t rust in the wash.) It helps shape the mask so it doesn’t fog my glasses. I can see putting wires on the sides to shape it away from your mouth, too.

    2. Altair*

      Indeed! And there’s also the Zippy Mask design,which uses a piece of zip-tie in a channel down the center of the mask to hold it out away from your face. I was about to repost my comment from Saturday about this, so I’m glad you got this thread started.

    3. blackcat*

      There are also some styles that do this on their own. A bit of a pain to sew, but I’ve found it well worth it to have a mask that fits tightly around the edges of my face and keeps the fabric off my nose/mouth.

    4. anony*

      Dezzi, thanks for the recommendation! Looks like there are a bunch of knockoffs on Amazon, so hard to tell which are legit products — can you link to the one you got?

    5. JKP*

      Thank you for this! I didn’t know this was available and ordered one right away.

      Although, if you’re wearing a mask, what does the lipstick matter, no one will see it?

  36. JustMe*

    Sigh. Fed here. Our water was declared actually dangerous years ago. Heaven forfend taxpayers should pay for potable water for us. We all have to bring it from home .

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Wow. I thought all employers had to comply with OSHA requirements, even the government. Providing potable water to employees is pretty basic.

  37. Keymaster of Gozer*

    For 1 and 2 I’m really sad to say that we’re seeing a lot of this in the UK too. We went ‘mandatory to wear masks in shops’ last week and there’s been local protests in my area. I live 1 mile outside town and can hear a protest right now….

    Additionally I’m sure I’ve mentioned my ex friend who went on holiday to NYC last month and is still trying to let her employer let her back in the office….

    (They’re saying no because she didn’t quarantine for 2 weeks. She still went out and about visiting people and shops. So they’re insisting 2 weeks means 2 weeks of the whole household locked down. She’s complaining…)

    The simple fact is, unless everyone who CAN abides by restricting contact, masks, hand washing etc, we’re never going to get to a point where we’ll all be safe. Or, wear masks in 2020 to avoid having to wear them through to 2025…

  38. The Rural Juror*

    Does the water fountain situation remind anyone else of Parks and Recreation when they have to put a shield on the water fountains to keep people from putting their whole mouths around the spout? Then Andy just knocks the shield off the spout and proceeds to do it anyway… Everyone in Pawnee would be done for if it was a real town!

  39. no comment*

    It is not a reasonable modification to allow a person with no mask into your place of business unless they can prove they are COVID-free. Unless you live in a crazy right-wing area, no jury will disagree with that statement. And none of these people are going to sue you for ADA violations anyway.

    The dentist is different because those people obviously need to be seen mask-free. But the other people in the office have a right not to be exposed, so it is still not a reasonable modification. (If somebody has a mental illness that triggers them to cut themself and squirt their blood at others, you don’t have to let them in either; this is literally the same thing.) Maybe set up a chair outside so these jerks can get cursory dental evaluations.

  40. Payroll Lady*

    I am one of those people that is claustrophobic and wearing a mask is very difficult for me. Think, waking up from surgery and pullin gout your IV because of the oxygen mask. I’ve tried several things but have found a regular mask that I can wear for a little bit. I do, as others have stated, have others go in to the store for me. I’m an essential and my work has made some “exemptions” within state guidelines. I have a private office. No ONE is allowed in my office without a mask, but they can stand in the doorway (8 feet from my desk). I am allowed to “run” to the ladies room and pick up my lunch when it’s delivered. We are all eating at our desks However, when I run into my Dunkin’ in the morning (with my mask on) my coffee is on the counter waiting for me so I don’t have to have the mask on any longer than possible. So yes, I hate it. Yes, I will do anything possible NOT to wear one however, I also do not want to put anyone else at risk. I believe in social distancing. I believe in wearing masks. I also understand, not every one can but they are the people that should be using home delivery, or curbside delivery as often as they can instead of putting other people at risk.

    I also have 3 grandchildren. 5,4 and 2. They all wear masks if they go outside anywhere other than my property. They like to wear them and their parents made sure they were made from material of cartoons and shows they like. They understand there is a virus that is making people sick and this is how we prevent it.

  41. tinyhipsterboy*

    The insistence on using the ADA to defend not wearing masks has me seeing red. Nobody’s asking people to disclose illnesses, and the fact of the matter is, if you for whatever reason can’t wear a mask, chances are you’re one of the people that COVID-19 will hit the hardest. The people who are so stridently against masks, from what I’ve seen, are almost always people who are making this into a political thing instead of recognizing it’s a global public health crisis, and they’re almost always entirely ignorant of what the ADA actually covers.

    Like the grocery store incidents. If you have access to curbside delivery, to home delivery, and/or to someone at the store shopping for you, those are all reasonable accommodations. Being in public without a mask poses a direct risk to public health: that is not covered by the ADA. All these people are doing are making it harder for people who ACTUALLY need the ADA to help them.

    1. Observer*

      nd the fact of the matter is, if you for whatever reason can’t wear a mask, chances are you’re one of the people that COVID-19 will hit the hardest. The people who are so stridently against masks, from what I’ve seen, are almost always people who are making this into a political thing instead of recognizing it’s a global public health crisis, and they’re almost always entirely ignorant of what the ADA actually covers.

      Yes. It makes me crazy.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Agreed. I worked the polls at a local election recently. We had one “mask hole” who came to vote maskless. Our governor has said masks aren’t required to vote. I offered him a mask, he refused it with a sneer. So I told him cheerfully, “that’s fine! We can take care of you curbside!” He looked disappointed that he wasn’t going to get to Start Something, but agreed. Whew, crisis averted.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        So I told him cheerfully, “that’s fine! We can take care of you curbside!”

        Perfect. Irrational need “accommodated” without fuss, but without giving in.

  42. JM60*

    If Jane is truly isolating in her office, this could maybe be okay

    I very much disagree. For one thing, the coronavirus can be spread by air conditioning. Secondly, aerosolization is a major issue in bathrooms, and wiping down surfaces doesn’t prevent aerosolization spread. The problem isn’t just the air an infected person exhales, it’s also that the virus spreads through fecal matter, which is aerosolized when flushing toilets. (To be clear, if she is at work and using the bathroom, she definitely should be wiping down and disinfecting surfaces, but that only addresses one mode of transmission.)

    Jane should definitely not be at work.

    1. tinyhipsterboy*

      Seconding. It’s been demonstrated that surface-to-person contact is not nearly as common when it comes to the spread of COVID-19; it’s the droplets suspended in the air from talking, breathing, sneezing, coughing, etc. that are responsible for the majority of the positive cases (at least, when I checked on it again last week). If there’s a significant amount of time between Jane being in the bathroom and someone else entering, that might be okay considering the aerosolized droplets would no longer be in the air, but she’d have to be completely separate otherwise.

      I’m not sure just how much air conditioning is a concern–it certainly is, but I’ve not seen figures myself on how likely it is to blow the droplets around, only theoretical situations–but it would still definitely come into play here. It wouldn’t be so bad if Jane had a mask on, but there’d need to be clean filters at just about every vent, even if she was completely isolated otherwise. This is worst-case scenario, of course, but unless there’s massive distancing or mask-wearing going on, Jane likely shouldn’t be going to work.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, I for one am wearing my mask when i have to be in office, regardless of how far I am from other people, and attempting to always eat outside, where theoretically anyone else’s respiration is far less likely to be a factor.

  43. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

    I swear, if I run into an ADA waving person, I will pull out the entire “well, the government should let me drive with a co-pilot!” as I wave my red-tipped cane at them about reasonable accommodations. Thank everything I live in a state where people are wearing masks when they go in to stores. Sitting outside at a restaurant while their masked server takes their order? Not so much. It’s why I’m not going out to dining yet (if ever again). Or wearing them correctly – the amount of people I see with their masks below their nose is annoying.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      the amount of people I see with their masks below their nose is annoying.

      Or below their chin…

  44. bluephone*

    Maaaan, I bet Dr. Fauci would LOVE to talk to LW 5’s CEO (via video because you know that CEO is a walking germ factory) and set him straight. Sheesh. Honestly, why do we even have people??? Like, humanity as a whole is kind of a failed experiment, right? Surely COVID-19 has shown us that :-(

  45. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    Okay, this isn’t really relevant but I just had to laugh. Soon after reading #6 a commercial I’ve never seen before came on tv: it’s for Culligan water and the voiceover says “he loves his Culligan water so much he takes it everywhere” then it shows this smiling guy with one of those big 5 gallon dispenser bottles about half-full carrying it into work, on a bicycle, etc. I laughed to myself “there’s the solution” lol

  46. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I am all for wearing masks and I hate that people are using disability as an excuse when they don’t have any issue and just don’t want to wear the mask.

    That being said, please please please do not harrass people who aren’t wearing a mask. They may legit have a reason why they don’t have o e on. For au t is severely me tally retarded and non verbal. She looks just like anyone else. Her caretakers can not get her to wear a hat, let alone a mask! The only thing that they could do would be to tie it around her head so tight she couldn’t push it off or restrain her in some way. All of which are illegal (you can’t put restraints on someone unless they are a danger to themselves or others. Like we allow restraints when she’s at the dentist, along with medication, so she doesn’t pull or hit the doctors.)
    I am so worried that one day her care team will HAVE to take her somewhere and some idiot is going to go up and start yelling at her about a facemask. That would. E heartbreaking forme as her guardian to have to hear about. She would not understand and would become upset. And I don’t know about other states but where she lives if you have a mental disorder that causes issues for masks you are not required to wear one.

    1. Doc in a Box*

      Sorry to hear about your aunt. Sounds like managing her care is a big challenge for you and for her caregivers. The thing is, by not wearing a mask when she’s out and about, she *is* a danger to others. I’m sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but her mental disability does not protect her against contracting covid or passing it along to others (with or without symptoms).

      Personal example: My little cousin is autistic and non-verbal and has really struggled with the masks; she’s also a very extroverted person who in the before times, would go up to random strangers and hug them. Her mother has decided against taking her anywhere right now — it’s just not safe for her or those around her, at least until case counts are steadily trending down.

      1. Bippity*

        She’s only a danger to others if she is infected, and there are many other measures her care team can take to protect her from becoming infected. Realistically she poses much less of a risk than someone who’s trotting around bars and shops and going to work on the bus, who pulls down their mask to make a quick phone call.

        There are also plenty of measures other people can take to protect themselves against a hypothetical infected non-mask wearer.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          Thank you Bippity. She doesn’t go out and the staff has taken many extra steps, including not allowing visitors. I’m just worried if something happens, like she falls and has to get a brace or something that someone will tell at her. She can’t understand. Litteray she’s like a 1 or 2 years old in some aspects. And you’d be surprised that even nursing staff try and ask her or have her do stuff. Like once the nurse asked her to take a deep breath and according to the staff person the nurse got all pissed because she was doing what she was asked. There are so many people who have issues like my aunt or who have other mental health issues. And people are getting so irate over stuff I would hate to see something happen.
          P.S. I love your username!

        2. soon to be former fed really*

          Smartpeople assume they are infected and others too. How is anybody to know if she is infected or not? It’s not about comparative foolish risk-taking. And what are those plenty of other measures that don’t involve face ceoverings? Nations that have tamped down the virus all required masks on everyone, it’s proven to mitigate transmission.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Mya aunt does not leave her house, and as far as I know hasn’t left her house since march. The staff all are taking procautions based on state and CDC. And there are no visitors allowed.
        All I was trying to say was there are some who have legit issues with masks and you shouldn’t go up and start yelling and accusing someone because they don’t have a mask. I’ve seen people go crazy lately and I’d hate for someo e like my au t, who doesn’t communicate in any way, have to go through that. And in her state the rules says people like my aunt do not have to wear a mask

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          Eh, there aren’t any real legit issues with facial coverings. If you had any risk factors like I do, and I wear two masks with an electrostatic liner between them, you would “go crazy ” too. This situation is not a plaything. And it’s the anti-maskers who are actually going crazy, going so far as to shoot people!

          1. Bippity*

            A minority of people who are severely disabled or have severe medical problems, medically cannot wear masks. To deny that fact is bigoted and anti-science. You can “eh” all you like about the existence of disabled people; it just makes you a bigot.

            Demanding that disabled people be denied access to food and essential medical care because you refuse to take responsibility for your own health is despicable. Disabled people have died during this pandemic due to having no way to access food.

            (And if I read another comment on here by an affluent middle class person who clearly lives in such a privileged bubble they assume everyone has money and access to resources saying “just get online delivery!!” – like they genuinely believe that everyone lives in an area where online delivery exists/has internet access/can afford the extra £7 home delivery costs, I will scream. Not everyone is rich like you! Check your privilege!)

      3. soon to be former fed really*

        Sorry, but no. I feel assaulted by people not wearing a mask or face covering of some type, full stop as the virus is indiscriminate. Unfortunately, the very small number of people who really can’t cover their face (no one likes masks/face coverings, they are hot and bothersome for all), should remain in their home.

        Doc, I couldn’t agree more.

    2. tinyhipsterboy*

      This is a very valid point! It’s not as simple as just “wearing a mask: good; not wearing one: bad.” At the same time, I think we should keep in mind the context of OP#1 and the United States as a whole: there’s a vocal, often vitriolic, minority of people that adamantly refuse to wear masks despite living in the country that’s hardest hit by COVID-19.

      Whether it’s the basic refusal to wear masks for personal liberty/anti-science beliefs, the equating of “mild discomfort” with “cannot breathe,” or a good ol’ fashioned “I don’t care,” that’s a huge problem right now. It’s a problem that puts everyone around that population in danger, from grocery store workers to customers to family and friends. When we’re talking about anti-maskers and people misusing the ADA, it’s about those people, not the people that legitimately cannot wear masks. Hell, people like your aunt are part of who is hurt by the misuse of the ADA: it makes people less likely to believe them.

      Besides, I think it’s fair to speak up. Not harass, certainly, but saying something at all isn’t unreasonable, imo. I think there’s a kinder middle ground to be had between saying nothing and full-on harassment.

      If your aunt has such a hard time in public that she needs a full-on care team to go with her, then the team would likely also be wearing masks and be able to mention that she can’t wear one, too, so unless speaking to her at all would set something off, that’s at least a little bit of worry mitigated. :) I don’t know how severe her case is, but I understand that the solution to this for a lot of other cases, like children who resist, is to use face shields instead of masks. Regardless, like you said, the laws already have provisions for people who cannot wear masks, and that’s not really what the discussion is about.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        It’s funny how in places like China, everyone who is out and about can wear a mask.

        1. Bippity*

          China has a horrendous record of treating disabled people like animals and denying them basic human rights. The fact you don’t see disabled people on the street isn’t exactly something to brag about.

    3. AnniesBanannies*

      I love your name! Thank you for being kind and considerate about non mask wearers. We really don’t know what others are dealing with whether it be physical or mental limitations.

      I’m one of those people who could probably ask for a mask exception…..but I won’t because I want other people to feel comfortable. I see the mask as a respect-for-others thing. Wearing a mask- as silly as it sounds—affects my eyes! I have dry eye from an autoimmune condition. The breath from my mask blows air right into my eyes (no matter how tightly I seal my mask). It’s made my condition a lot worse to the point I‘m having to take an additional medication to help reduce that. I’m actually just trying to deal with this with some humor at how goofy my body has become and trying not to focus on the discomfort. In the bigger picture it’s a minor inconvenience to wear the mask and you can actually have some fun with it (I put googly eyes on my mask the other day). It can be a (socially distant) conversation starter and you can have a moment of connection with someone during these disconnected times. Stay well!

  47. Spencer Hastings*

    I didn’t realize that looser face coverings were a compromise — I’d been wearing a tubular thing that looks like a neck gaiter for hiking, except longer, while out and about sometimes (though I had yet to wear it to work)*. If masks are strictly better, then I’ll give up on the gaiter! (Though the masks I have are not PPE by any means — they were sewn out of ordinary T-shirt material by people I know.)

    *This is the thing I’m talking about:

  48. Luna*

    LW1: I have little patience for people that claim they ‘can’t wear masks. While it’s certainly true that some medical conditions or phobias can influence how comfortable/difficult it can be to wear a mask, I don’t think it counts as a legit reason to not wear anything. I have asthma, I still wear a mask. My mother feels like she’s being choked when wearing a mask, but she still wears it.
    And it’s not like masks are the only thing you are allowed to wear. I have seen people wearing little headbands with a plastic ‘shield’ located in front of their face. I’m sure you can also use big, plastic bottles to create a makeshift mask. There are many ways to wear something to protect others by covering your mouth and nose area.

    LW2: Jane needs to follow rules, and your bosses need a kick in the backside. Because they are the idiots that think they should bring someone in, when they have that much of an increased risk of being a carrier. If she were positive for COVID, would they still insist she come to work and isolate her? I hope not.

    LW5: Pretty sure whistleblower protection is a thing? And unless your boss is a certified doctor, I would not ‘trust him’ with *my* health. Even if he is one, I’d still take his decisions with a grain of salt. Doctors may know general stuff very well, but I am the one person that knows my body best, and if a doctor’s suggestion seems to not be healthy for my body or mind, I won’t do it.

  49. stitchinthyme*

    I have a friend who owns a used bookshop. When a family came in without masks and tried to use the ADA excuse, my friend said that if they wanted to shop without masks, she’d be happy to let them make an appointment to shop when the store was closed. They got angry and left without making an appointment.

  50. Kisses*

    Real quick about Disney:

    My dad is working there and was called back 2 weeks ago. While they are able to enforce their new protocols at the front entrance, they are running out of cleaning supplies inside and do not sanitize the rides in between groups. It is a dangerous situation and highly recommended by Orlando officials (who won’t directly say it) that one should avoid the theme parks.

  51. Anonymosity*

    #4–OP, I had all my performance reviews at my last job over the phone. My boss was in another state and rarely traveled to ours. If you want to observe body language or feel face-to-face is better, then video is the way to go. We have the technology; it’s unnecessary for either of you to take the risk of meeting in person.

  52. Cary*


    My dad has COPD and can’t breathe well enough to wear a mask. He called ahead for his dental appointment to learn how they would/could handle this. They had him wait in his car until his appointment time and be called when the dentist was available to see him. He was happy to be offered this so he would be away from other patients instead of in a waiting room with them–since his COPD also puts him at especially high risk of death if he does catch COVID.

    BTW, everyone–the dry mouth that comes from many COPD treatments also means COPD patients are especially likely to need dental work. The guy another poster quoted, who claimed, “If you genuinely can’t breathe then you are sick enough that you shouldn’t be at any sort of business because you should be hospitalized,” is making the common mistake of overlooking chronic conditions that people have to learn to just live with. If you have an acute breathing problem, sure, wait to get better. If you have COPD, you will never get better. You will only ever get worse. The only treatments just make you more comfortable. But you can’t just quit living years before you actually die. (BTW, my dad has outlived their prediction by a year.) If you need dental work in the meantime, then you do.

    I believe it’s true that the ADA says you can’t be required to disclose your medical information / disability, and that’s just for privacy reasons–it can be misused, but please don’t take a desire for privacy as proof the person is lying! Please just offer reasonable accommodations.

  53. AnniesBanannies*

    I’m one of those people who could probably ask for a mask exception…..but I won’t because I want other people to feel comfortable. I see the mask as a respect-for-others thing. Wearing a mask- as silly as it sounds—affects my eyes! I have dry eye from an autoimmune condition. The breath from my mask blows air right into my eyes (no matter how tightly I seal my mask). It’s made my condition a lot worse to the point I‘m having to take an additional medication to help reduce that. I’m actually just trying to deal with this with some humor at how goofy my body has become and trying not to focus on the discomfort. In the bigger picture it’s a minor inconvenience to wear the mask and you can actually have some fun with it (I put googly eyes on my mask the other day). Stay well!

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