Despite all the science that suggests everyone wearing a mask is one of the simplest ways to slow the spread of coronavirus, there are lots of people refusing to do it. Mask-wearing has become politicized, with many conservatives and MAGA-heads refusing on the basis of it being anti-American.
But there are plenty of random outliers who also refuse the mask, complaining about it being too tight or cutting off air supply. Though there is little proof that masks actually do anything to oxygen levels or heart rates, it seems that some people just refuse to be told what to do even if it keeps everyone alive.
So these laminated “Face Mask Exempt Cards” shouldn’t be too shocking—they’re the natural next step for people who refuse to believe in science and who want to argue with minimum wage workers just doing their jobs at the grocery store.
The cards have been popping up on various Reddit and Twitter threads, and TODAY reports that were first shared by an anti-mask group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency. More people became aware of the cards after Lance Bass posted a picture of on Twitter:
HEADS UP fellow businesses…. This is not a thing. This is what happens when Arts and Crafts Karens have too much time on their hands. We will throw it in the trash and send them on their way. pic.twitter.com/VKACSA3pRU
— Lance Bass (@LanceBass) June 24, 2020
The card includes a number for the Department of Justice’s hotline for reporting violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and reads, “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.”
Their website is….something else. Here are your “tools”
At the bottom of the page: “PLEASE REPORT ANY BUSINESS/ORGANIZATION THAT IS UNLAWFULLY FORCING FACE MASK MADATE TO FTBA” pic.twitter.com/APMmxoPmaO
— Shannon *WEAR A MASK, DON’T BE SELFISH* (@jodfoster) June 24, 2020
“If found in violation of the ADA you could face steep penalties. Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $75,000 for your first violation and $150,000 for any subsequent violations. Denying access to your business/organization will also be reported to FTBA for further actions.”
There is a link on the card for the fake Freedom to Breathe Agency, but it now leads to an error page.
Like many weird lies, there is a sprinkle of truth involved. A business can’t ask about your specific disability and they can’t request proof of it—but they’re also only obligated to provide reasonable alternatives, not to exempt people from mask-wearing altogether. These are the suggested “reasonable modifications” to masks offered by the DOJ:
Allow a person to wear a scarf, loose face covering, or full face shield instead of a face mask;
Allow customers to order online with curbside pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
Allow customers to order by phone with curb-side pick-up or no contact delivery in a timely manner;
Allow a person to wait in a car for an appointment and enter the building when called or texted; or
Offer appointments by telephone or video calls.
The DOJ was forced to make this statement on the fake cards:
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,” the statement read.
“These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department,” it 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.”
The founder of the fake Freedom to Breathe Agency, Lenka Koloma, told TODAY that they never meant to imply this card was issued by the government, only to “tell people the references under which they are protected.”
People are still pretty disgusted with this obvious attempt to weasel out of an important public health measure:
“Sorry Karen, but I’m a Christian, so I believe in showing love to others by doing everything I can not to see them harmed, even at my own inconvenience.”
Watch them lose their minds.
— Netbug is Rereading MTMTE! (@Netbug009) June 24, 2020
Agreed. I have lupus and terrible anxiety. The mask makes me feel like the walls are closing in. But I practice my breathing and deal with it.
— erinskidmore (@psych143) June 24, 2020
There’s no ada accommodation for masks lmao. I’m a cripple. I’m pretty familiar with the site and they don’t have cards 😂😂
— Daddy No Legs (@questioncom) June 24, 2020
Just got a better look at the card and the seal is DOJ, that’s also illegal use of a government a government agency emblem.
— Teresa Fallis 🦋🌊 (@teresadf) June 24, 2020
I need a new heart. I rarely leave my home. I have trouble breathing through a mask but I wear one like I will Monday when I go to have surgery. People need to think before they claim a disability. Faking a disability can get you banned but they can try
— Brian Germann (@BriansNewHeart) June 24, 2020
Wear a dang mask. Think of it like wearing a seatbelt, another government-mandated rule meant to protect everyone even if it’s not necessary for every ride you take.