The Truth About 'Face Mask Exempt' Cards

As more and more cities across the country make it mandatory to wear face masks in public, some people are claiming to be exempt from the policy. Until recently, cards were being offered for sale online which claimed that the bearer of the card was exempt from mandatory face covering ordinances. As noted by ABC News, the cards say "wearing a face mask posses [sic] a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability [sic] Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you."

The cards also warn that forcing someone to comply with the face mask policy would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and result in "steep penalties" which could include fines of $75,000 or $150,000.

The cards feature the Department of Justice Logo as well as a logo for the Freedom to Breathe Agency, which produced the cards. The cards also state that businesses and organizations refusing to allow people not wearing face coverings on to their premises will be "reported to FTBA for further actions."

Are 'face mask exempt' cards legit?

These cards certainly look legitimate, but they are not backed by the government. While they no longer appear to be for sale, many cards are still in circulation. "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 in a statement. "These cards do not carry the force of law. The 'Freedom to Breathe Agency,' or 'FTBA,' is not a government agency."

In an email to The New York Times, the Freedom to Breathe Agency claimed that the cards are meant to be used as "an educational tool" to help people "understand their legal and human rights so they can stand up to the unlawful, unscientific and unconstitutional mandates." They claimed they receive reports from people who do not want to wear face coverings who have subsequently been "denied access, discriminated, degraded, intimated and coerced." The FTBA added, "These are people who have medical conditions where wearing a face mask puts them at significant health risk."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that most people should be wearing face coverings when out in public, especially in crowded places where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. They should not, however, be worn by children younger than 2 "or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance."