Toronto woman films denial of care in ER after refusing to wear mask
Published Monday, July 6, 2020 6:03AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 6, 2020 8:58PM EDT
A Toronto woman who refused to wear a mask while seeking treatment at a hospital and was forced out filmed and posted the incident on social media, drawing condemnation from local officials, celebrities and thousands of others.
Letitia Montana said she went to St. Joseph’s Hospital with her son on July 4 for a “suspected broken finger.”
“You’re making me wear a mask otherwise you are going to deny me service,” she is heard saying in the video filmed at the front counter of the emergency room.
“Yes, we’re asking you to wear a mask,” a nurse replies.
The video does not show Montana being escorted out of the emergency room.
It has since been viewed more than four million times.
Non-medical mask use has been encouraged by health officials across North America, and becomes mandatory in all indoor, public spaces in Toronto on Tuesday, as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
A growing body of research has shown that mask use can reduce the emission of respiratory droplets that carry the virus, reducing the risk for people who cannot remain apart from infecting each other if both are masked.
It has also spurred backlash from some, including Montana, who say they lead to other health problems and their use was mandated as a form of political control.
Unity Health Network said Monday that its staff members at St. Joseph's Health Centre were simply following the guidance of the Ministry of Health when asking Montana to wear a mask.
"This policy follows guidelines set out by Ontario’s Ministry of Health based on our best scientific understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads. We encourage all community members to seek care when they need it. At St. Joseph’s and any of our Unity Health Toronto sites, you will be asked questions about any COVID-19 related symptoms, to wear a mask and remember to maintain physical distancing in all parts of the hospital."
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he thought wearing a mask in a hospital emergency room of all places was a reasonable request.
"I don’t think there are very many people who would argue with the requirement that when you’re in a hospital, in the emergency room of a hospital, that you wear a mask."
Meanwhile, Health Minister Christine Elliott thanked the staff at St. Joseph's Hospital for their efforts.
"I would like to thank the brave frontline heroes at St. Joseph's Health Centre and across Ontario for putting themselves in harm’s way to care for us. When seeking care, each of us should follow all protocols in place at hospitals to help protect frontline workers and other patients."
Most on social media weren’t having any of it.
City of Toronto chief spokesperson Brad Ross warned Montana she was going to become a verb.
Councillor Michael Ford, who had to be hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 last month, chimed in as well, calling refusing to wear a mask selfish.
The encounter drew attention south of the border, where an even larger share of the population is up in arms against mask use due to COVID-19.
Montana said later on Twitter she stood by her decision to not don a mask in the emergency room.
On social media, Montana self identifies as a "truther," defined as a person who believes a conspiracy is blocking the public from learning the truth about an important subject.
She recently attended a protest in Ottawa demanding an end to lockdown measures and removal of the Liberals from power.