Metro Detroit woman who can’t medically tolerate mask says businesses hesitant to believe her

Pam Miller says she's passed out from wearing masks in 3 different stores

Officials say those who cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask can seek out alternative services or accommodations amid the new mask requirement law for public places in Michigan.

DETROIT – A Metro Detroit woman who said she has passed out while wearing masks in three different stores says businesses are hesitant to believe she can’t medically tolerate face coverings.

“I feel like I can’t catch my breath, like things are closing in on me,” Pam Miller said.

Miller said she’s trying to follow the mask rules, but she has major lung issues.

“I have passed out in three different stores,” Miller said. “I am OK -- I just can’t breathe with a mask on.”

Businesses must now block anyone who isn’t wearing a mask, but that doesn’t include those who cannot medically tolerate a face covering.

Miller told the Local 4 Defenders that some shops don’t want to hear it.

“They say, ‘Didn’t you see the sign?‘” Miller said. “(I say), ‘I saw the sign, but it also says if you are medically unable to, you don’t have to.' They say, ‘Get out. We can’t sell. It is our license.‘”

Federal and state law says if someone is disabled and can’t wear a mask, businesses have to accommodate them in other ways. As long as they offer that adjusted accommodation, they have the right to keep someone out.

“You don’t need a note from your doctor,” said Kimberly C. Woolridge, of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “You do need to notify the place that you are a person with a disability and that you need an accommodation. It makes it easier if you tell them. They can’t ask you because that is illegal.”

Businesses can offer accommodations such as curbside grocery pickup or outdoor dining.

But if you can’t tolerate a mask, Woolridge said the business might want to offer accommodations that keep you outside.

“Or they can just let them in if it is an issue that they just can’t medically tolerate it,” Woolridge said.

“I am not offended,” Miller said. “I am offended to (be told to) get out like I have no rights.”

About the Authors:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.