Call to stop mask exempt bullying

Danielle Sullivan wants people to stop and think before judging someone for not wearing a mask. Photo: John Borren.

A Tauranga woman who has been abused for not wearing a mask is asking people to be more understanding.

Danielle Sullivan has a mask exemption for respiratory reasons, but claims she has faced verbal abuse and bullying from members of the public and shop employees.

In a recent trip to her local store, she was called a “fraud” and a “liar” by a staff member despite producing her mask exemption paperwork.

On another trip to the supermarket Danielle, who is Māori, was also subject to racist remarks.

An elderly couple were staring at her so she asked if they were okay or if they had something to say.

“He then said to me ‘it’s people like you that are going to make us sick because you’re not wearing a mask,” says Danielle.

She explained about her mask exemption but was then told “it’s brown people like you who are getting the rest of the country sick”.

During level four Danielle wouldn’t go out because the abuse increased her anxiety, so she relied on deliveries for groceries.

“I just stopped going out altogether,” she says.

“I couldn't handle going out because of the fact that people were so nasty.”

The single mum says it is upsetting for her children to see and hear such abuse.

“How am I supposed to explain to a six-year-old why her mother is being verbally abused or yelled at in a store?”

Danielle wants people to be kind and understanding rather than making judgements.

“If you have something to say that’s not going to be positive, then keep that opinion silent,” she says.

“To take it out on the person not wearing a mask, you're actually doing more damage than good.

“Every single individual should be doing what they need to, to protect themselves. They shouldn’t be worrying about other people.”

Danielle applauds Pak ‘n Save in Tauriko because they have stickers for people with mask exemptions that read: “Please be kind, I am exempt from wearing a mask.”

“For the first time since we’ve been in lockdown, I felt normal when shopping,” she says

“I was able to walk into the shop with no questions asked and no-one looking at me weird.

“That really picked my spirits up. Things like that make a difference.”

She says this is something other supermarkets and retailers could do as well.

Mask exemption cards from the Ministry of Health are available to people who have a health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.

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@ major Oranje

Posted on 20-09-2021 11:13 | By

A pandemic is basically a global epidemic -- an epidemic that spreads to more than one continent,"  Not necessarily death related as you elude to. So to answer your question, yes it is.


Posted on 20-09-2021 10:48 | By

Like a lot of exempt people I would almost guarantee that if given a lotto ticket that had a large win and the claim process required wearing a mask . . . they’d wear it . . . happily.

Be Kind!!

Posted on 20-09-2021 09:43 | By

For all you critics. Walk a mile in their shoes. A friend of mine in her late 70s with lung disease has an exemption not to wear a mask as she cant breath properly. She was abused at New World at Gate Pa in front of staff who did nothing. She went home and cried for ages and never went out again. Cant use the internet and family to far away. So before you all throw stones at people, put yourself in their shoes!! New world now give stickers. I got her a doctors face shield so now she has her freedom.


Posted on 19-09-2021 20:37 | By Told you

Why can’t she wrap a scarf around her neck and cover her face, I bet she is not vaccinated.?

How typical

Posted on 19-09-2021 17:04 | By WSTAKL

These comments sum up perfectly what people think of Tauranga

My Hmmm

Posted on 19-09-2021 16:45 | By

If you want people to be kind and nice, then by this photo I would say lose the attitude. If you’re not going out anymore then there’s not a problem however you also need to realise that people at these places are also at their wits end and to see someone without a mask can push their buttons as much as their comment can push your buttons. Racial slurs - totally uncalled for. Yes, there is click and collect but some time outside the house can certainly be refreshing.


Posted on 19-09-2021 13:46 | By

Bodies piled up in the streets? NO. 20%+ death rate of infected? NO. One elderly person with co-morbidities has died in NZ this year despite thousands of cases. The death rate of the infected is less than 1%. Is that really a "pandemic".....or an exercise in controlling the thinking of Kiwis?


Posted on 19-09-2021 10:50 | By

There are ways to restrict your interactions with those that are able to wear a mask to protect others. Selfishness and irresponsibility are not acceptable when there is an alternative solution such as click and collect or home delivery. I don’t deny that there are many who object to the need for masks and have good reasons to not wear them, but stay well away from confined spaces with recirculating air systems and show us that you’re not a self-centered idiot and care for others by using alternatives for a few months and get vaccinated.... Or are you exempt from that as well...?


Posted on 19-09-2021 09:56 | By Mountie888

You will find you’re Sp02 levels are exactly the same wearing a mask or not. Sounds like a choice to not wear a mask at others expense. Get a Sp02 reader and try it yourself

So become invisible

Posted on 19-09-2021 09:12 | By SonnyJim

Many may have mask exemption for respiratory reasons, but before getting the exemption have they actually tried wearing a mask before applying? A simple social solution would be to get a mask with a more open gauze, thus making wearers appear to conform yet are within their comfort zone. There are overseas video clips of exempt people ’sounding-off’ when asked to wear a mask - demonstrating to all that they have no breathing difficulties whatsoever.


Posted on 19-09-2021 08:24 | By Equality

She should be wearing a mask with filters!! No excuse. Of course people are going to say something. A lot of fuss about nothing!!

During a lockdown

Posted on 19-09-2021 07:38 | By

Is it wise for someone with respiratory issues be out and about in a global pandemic?