California doctor accused of issuing fake mask exemptions to students

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ROSEVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) — A California doctor faces criticism from fellow health care workers after being accused of handing out fake mask exemptions to students in the Eureka Union School District.

A group of former colleagues and concerned parents allege Dr. Michael Huang, a private practitioner in Roseville, sold complete mask exemptions for students, including a waiver for the wearing of face shields normally reserved for students who cannot wear masks.

Dr. David Herbert, CEO of Sutter Independent Physicians, said he’d heard concerned parents within the district complain about the number of students excused from wearing masks for health concerns unrelated to COVID-19.

To be excused from wearing masks, students need written approval from a physician.

“Concerns that there’s been a lot of mask exemptions written for students in the school,” Herbert said. “I, as a parent, are very concerned that our students and their teachers and our families stay safe.”

Herbert said he fired Huang in late 2020.

“He was previously with Sutter Independent Physicians but no longer is, and I can’t go into the details of such a personnel change,” Herbert said.

Huang denied wrongdoing.

“This is all new to me,” Huang told KTXL. “We were not aware of or even known that there was any accusations about my practice.”

Huang said he is not writing false mask exemptions and that he’s doing work that all other physicians refuse to do.

“If I’m the only physician writing exemptions, that means all the other physicians in this state, in my area — in many other areas also in the state — basically gave up on their patients,” Huang said.

Huang said he was let go from Sutter Independent Physicians because of an inability to wear a mask throughout the workday because of his asthma.

“Sutter Independent Physicians felt strongly that because I can’t wear a mask all day at work, they were going to let me go,” Huang said.

But people who actually need a mask exemption are rare, said pediatrician Dr. Terrance Chang from UC Davis School of Medicine.

“There are probably rare instances where they can be exempt where they have extreme phobia, anxiety, psychiatric problems with wearing a mask,” Chang said.

A spokesperson for the Placer County Office of Education said they are aware of the mask exemption forms used by parents so that their children don’t have to wear masks, and that they’re seeking additional guidance from the state health department. The district may possibly implement additional verification from students receiving a mask exemption.

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