‘Face mask exemption cards’ circulating online are fake, DOJ says

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a warning regarding fake posters and flyers circulating on the internet that exempt individuals from wearing face masks in public because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“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,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Images of the flyer shrunken down to the size of a business card that reads “Face Mask Exempt Card” have surfaced on Twitter. 

Former NSYNC member Lance Bass posted a photo of the card to his Twitter account writing “HEADS UP fellow businesses.... This is not a thing.” 

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The card 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."

According to the fake card, any business found violating the fictitious mandate could face serious consequences. “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 be also reported to FTBA for further actions,” the card reads.

The FTBA apparently refers to the “Freedom to Breathe Agency,” which shares its website on the flyer. When attempting to visit the site, however, it appears to go to a domain page that doesn’t exist. 

“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 DOJ warned.

Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger and three other former California governors joined Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday in a video campaign promoting the use of face coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“This is not about being weak,” Schwarzenegger says as he holds up a mask in a public service announcement also featuring Jerry Brown, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson.

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As the U.S. surpasses 120,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, wearing a face mask, which many medical experts urge as one of the best lines of defense against the highly contagious virus, has increasingly become politicized. 

The pushback on wearing a mask has been repeatedly stoked by President Donald Trump, who has routinely refused to wear any form of facial covering in public, while downplaying the threat of the virus, insisting, contrary to evidence, that “it’s fading away, it’s going to fade away.”

One of the hardest-hit areas is Phoenix, where Trump held an event Tuesday with thousands of young attendees, nearly all of whom were maskless.

CDC teams, officials said, are working to trace new outbreaks and reinforce protective measures like social distancing and mask wearing in hard-hit areas and to remind vulnerable populations to take extreme precautions. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.