The wearing of face masks has become a lightning rod, with authorities—including Vice President Mike Pence—strongly encouraging, and in some states mandating, their use, while others feel it is an affront to personal freedoms. (President Donald Trump, notably, does not wear one.) Now, some entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the situation.
“Recently, ‘face mask exempt’ cards have appeared on social media, claiming the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared certain individuals from wearing protective face coverings to stem the spread of COVID-19,” according to Time. “This week, the DOJ declared that it has not issued and does not endorse any such identification.”
“Many images of ‘face mask exempt’ cards circulated online include the statement: ‘Wearing a face mask posses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) I am not required to disclose my condition to you.’ Many images also include the DOJ reporting number, the DOJ’s seal and the warning: ‘If found in violating of the ADA you could face steep penalties,'” reports the magazine. Some have language on them indicating they are from the government’s “Freedom to Breathe Agency.”
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, the United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
The Cards Have Typos
The New York Times also covered the cards and dug deeper into what they say and who is making them. “‘Wearing a face mask posses a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you,’ reads the card, which misspells ‘poses’ and incorrectly names the Americans with Disabilities Act,” reports the New York Times. “The cards were created in response to complaints, the group’s communication team said in an email, and as ‘an educational tool’ to help people ‘understand their legal and human rights so they can stand up to the unlawful, unscientific and unconstitutional mandates.’ The communications team declined to provide a named spokesperson, citing concerns over ‘the safety of our key members.'”
They were being sold for $49.99 for 500 cards.
For More Information
The alert from the ADA reads in full:
*COVID-19 ALERT: Fraudulent Facemask Flyers*
The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal.
These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department.
The Department urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the Department.
For more information and technical assistance about the ADA, please contact the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) and 800-514-0383 (TTY).
As for yourself, only leave the home if it’s essential, wear a face covering unless your doctor advises against it, wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing, monitor your health and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.