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So-called “face mask exemption” cards being distributed by a group opposed to coronavirus-related mandates of mask-wearing in public are not genuine government-issued documents, the Department of Justice said in an alert earlier this week.
The card trend in question was launched by a group opposed to in-public mask mandates, the Freedom to Breathe Agency, which claims that the bearer is “exempt” from having to wear masks in public.
The cards reference the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but the official government website outlining provisions of the law announced recently that the cards are “fraudulent.”
“The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal,” says the site.
“These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department,” the statement continued. “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.”
In an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” show Thursday, the founder of the group, Lenka Koloma, said the cards have never claimed they were issued by either the ADA or the Department of Justices, and that the agency and the law are only mentioned to “tell people the references under which they are protected.”
“The FTBA card was issued so people are aware of their rights,” she continued.
Printable versions of the card have been widely shared on social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.
“I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public. Wearing a face mask poses 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,” one says.
The card also advises people to contact the Justice Department to report any ADA violations, while alleging that businesses and groups in violation of the law are potentially liable for “steep penalties” including fines and fees up to $150,000.
The cards also advise that Freedom to Breathe will engage in “further action” against any businesses that deny access to people who have the card and are not wearing masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that people begin wearing cloth face coverings in early April while in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Since that time, several states, cities, and businesses have adopted rules requiring people to wear masks while they are in public or on store premises.
The CDC issued an advisory in early April, recommending that cloth facial coverings be used while in public.
“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus,” the agency said.
“CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others,” it added.
“Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
The agency said at the time that N-95 and surgical masks were not recommended because they were in critically short supply and would be needed for medical personnel first and foremost.
Earlier this month, a study published in the scientific medical journal The Lancet found that wearing a mask in combination with social distancing dramatically reduces the spread of COVID-19.
But other studies and experts have found that wearing a mask is not at all effective, especially if the wearer is constantly touching or adjusting it without washing his or her hands.
As for the so-called ‘anti-mask movement,’ it is spreading.
Palm Beach County Commission members were read the riot act by fellow Floridians earlier this week over the county’s public mask rule.
And two-time World Series champ Aubrey Huff took to social media earlier this month to swear off wearing masks in public, saying he’d “rather die” from the virus.
— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) June 16, 2020
In May, an unmasked California woman threatened to sue a local business owner for alleged discrimination after he refused to allow her into a supermarket in Orange County because of a mandatory mask policy.
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