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Why, When, How, and What to Ask Healthcare Workers so They Can Protect You Now That Universal Masking in Healthcare Settings Has Ended

In science and medicine, information is constantly changing and may become out-of-date as new data emerge. All articles and interviews are informational only, should never be considered medical advice, and should never be acted on without review with your health care team.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Koffman


  • All of us with CLL / SLL are moderately to severely immunocompromised, even if we’re not in treatment, and we’re at significantly higher risk from respiratory infections such as COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 is still circulating.
  • Immunocompromised people are considered to have a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • People covered by the ADA are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” that enable us to access healthcare safely.
  • Good masking by patients and staff reduces the risk.
  • Now that most healthcare settings have lifted mask requirements, we must be active in asking for the protections we need and are entitled to.


  • Ask at least a week ahead if you have a scheduled appointment and as soon as you hit the healthcare setting if it’s an urgent visit.
  • If we ask ahead of time, we are much more likely to get the help we need and are entitled to, and there’s a bonus — we’ll lay the groundwork for other people to get the protections they need, too!


  • Call in advance to find out who to direct your request to
  • Remember, many people who answer the phones or emails at healthcare sites will not be aware of the ADA protections.
  • So treat them kindly, explain that this is new for all of us, and be prepared to ask to speak to clinic managers or compliance officers.
  • We are NOT required to provide any medical or legal documentation of our health status to ask for these accommodations, but we can if we wish to.


  • The attached document from the Vermont Center for Independent Living is an excellent overview of the law and the practicalities of requesting accommodations under the ADA.
  • It has a list of the kind of accommodations that we can ask for.
  • We CAN NOT ask that other patients be required to mask
  • We CAN ask that all staff mask and that we are not placed in a position of sharing air with unmasked patients while we wait to be seen

Two Practical Points to Remember:

1. If you are denied a reasonable accommodation, document it. Write down the date, time, location, and name of the staff involved. Don’t give up — escalate your request up the chain! Then, file a complaint through the healthcare site’s patient relations office, and consider filing a complaint with the ADA.

2. You may want to carry a few new high-quality masks to offer staff so that if they say, “I don’t have a mask,” you can quickly fix that problem!

Resources and Links:

Here’s the link to the friendly and helpful resource from the Vermont Center for Independent Living: Making ADA Reasonable Modifications Requests.

Here’s a link to a supportive editorial from the well-respected medical journal, Annals of Internal Medicine: For Patient Safety, It Is Not Time to Take Off Masks in Health Care Settings.

CLL Society - Living With CLL

When appropriate, the CLL Society will be posting updates and background information on the present Coronavirus pandemic focusing on reliable primary sources of information and avoiding most of the news that is not directly from reliable medical experts or government and world health agencies.