Can physicians refuse to see patients who decline to wear a mask?

There are several factors to consider before making a general statement that anyone presenting without a mask will not be seen:

First, medical staff should determine if there is a medical reason that the patient refuses to wear a mask. Staff should instruct the patient that the practice’s policy states that everyone entering the office should be masked. If the patient still refuses, the practice may want to consider scheduling a telehealth visit or rescheduling their visit to the last appointment of the day. Curi also recommends that practices have masks or face coverings such as bandanas available to offer patients who do not bring their own. Staff who are seeing patients without a mask should consider adding a face shield for added protection should an exposure occur.

The pre-screening process should include a question about whether or not the patient will be wearing a mask when entering the medical office. This pre-screening also provides an opportunity to educate patients ahead of time about your practice’s expectations. After screening, if it has been determined that the patient will not be wearing a mask, check with the provider and consider scheduling a telehealth visit if possible. Curi recommends that medical practices make every effort to find a solution to ensure the patient can be seen safely.

Finally, if someone accompanies the patient and refuses to wear a mask, practices are not required to let that individual into the facility unless the patient requires their assistance or is a minor. This should also be addressed during the pre-screening process.

Please also note: before turning away a patient without a mask, staff should review the patient’s medical status to ensure they are not experiencing an acute illness that requires immediate attention.

News & Knowledge
All Curi recommendations are based on current CDC criteria at the time of publication. CDC guidance for SARS-CoV-2 infection may, or may not, be adopted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances. Providers should always check with their local health department to see if the CDC’s guidance on any given topic has been modified (particularly if more restrictive) from the CDC’s recommended guidelines. Follow this link https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/index.html for contact information to your state/local health department. If local recommendations vary from those of the CDC, and you are unsure what recommendations to follow, then it is safer to follow the more restrictive guidelines/recommendations.