We’ve all been informed that it’s important that people practice physical distancing and, if possible, wear masks when distancing isn’t feasible for the foreseeable future. Many of us would like to see everyone wearing masks when they’re outside even if they’re diligent about trying to stay 6′ away from others. While each of us needs to do what we can to keep from spreading COVID-19, it’s also important for us all to be understanding and not castigate those who are maskless, because many of them have reasons they can’t wear masks and you can’t tell just by looking.

Some people with lung problems can’t get enough air when they try to breathe through a mask. In addition to those with emphysema or other chronic illnesses, this can include people who have recovered from respiratory tract illnesses who are no longer contagious but whose lungs are still in process of recovering.Getting fresh air and gentle exercise can be important to their recoveries.

People with autism, cognitive disabilities, anxiety disorders or other psychiatric disorders, or other invisible conditions may be unable to tolerate masks. One mother describes these issue beautifully in the article Some autistic people can’t tolerate face masks. Here’s how we’re managing with our son.

The recent Massachusetts state and local guidelines both specify that people are not required to provide written proof of their reason for not wearing a mask.  During this time when we’re all stressed and on edge, assuming the best instead of the worst of people and practicing kindness can help us all. 

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