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U.S. Justice Department warns of fraudulent 'mask exemption' cards
TORONTO -- Federal U.S. authorities are urging the public to be aware of fraudulent cards and fliers that claim the holder is exempt from wearing a face mask.
Photos of “face mask exemption” cards have cropped up online in recent days as more municipalities consider bylaws that would mandate mask wearing in public spaces.
The cards are endorsed by a group called the “Freedom to Breathe Agency” and contain a blue and white logo with an eagle similar to the seal used by the U.S. Department of Justice.
At the top of the card in bold letters are the words “Face mask exemption,” followed by a paragraph that says: “I am exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public ... Wearing a face mask posses [sic] a mental and/or physical risk to me.”
The card also includes a warning that businesses or organizations can be reported to the Freedom to Breathe Agency and face a penalty up to US$75,000 for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin is urging the public not to rely on the information contained on the cards or other similar postings.
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” Martin said. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
The founder of the FTBA, Lenka Koloma, advertised the cards on her Facebook page, with the New York Times reporting that a box of 500 cards was sold online via Shopify for $49.99. As of Sunday afternoon, the site was no longer available.
Tensions surrounding the mandated use of facial coverings persist in the U.S. as citizens continue to adapt to the “new normal” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, residents in Palm Beach, Fla. erupted in anger at a commissioners meeting after the county issued an emergency order requiring mandatory face masks in public. Many clips of the meeting were posted online drawing ire from social media users who are concerned about the surge of COVID-19 cases throughout the U.S.
Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both continue to recommend wearing facial coverings in areas where physical distancing guidelines may be difficult to maintain.