Face Mask Exempt Cards Citing ADA Are Fake, Justice Department Says
Federal officials have issued multiple warnings about cards and flyers circulating online that falsely claim to exempt people with disabilities from wearing face masks.
With an increasing number of cities and states across the country requiring people to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Justice has put out at least three notices to alert the public that the documents are fraudulent.
“I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public,” reads one of the cards created by a group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency. “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.”
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In addition to misspelling “poses” and including an inaccurate name for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the card features the Justice Department seal and a legitimate phone number for the government’s ADA information line. The card warns of fines ranging from $75,000 to $150,000 for violating the ADA. A Facebook page advertising the cards has been taken down.
Federal officials say that the materials were not created or endorsed by the Justice Department.
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin of 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.”
Furthermore, officials said that people should not rely on information contained in these types of postings or flyers.
“The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations,” the Justice Department warning indicated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings when around individuals they do not live with to help prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The agency acknowledges that individuals with developmental disabilities may have challenges wearing face coverings and should talk with their health care provider for advice.
Face coverings should not be worn by children under the age of 2 or “anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance,” the CDC says.