"These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department,"  the government agency said
face masks
Californians wearing face masks
| Credit: Apu GOMES / AFP

The Department of Justice stepped in this week after social media was flooded with false information about so-called “face mask exemption cards," which claimed to give people the right to ignore local mandates about wearing protective coverings 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,” the fraudulent cards read, going on to threaten that any violations against the cardholder would result in a sizable fine.

Many cards also featured the seal of the Department of Justice, as well as the seal and website for the Freedom to Breathe Agency. The group’s Facebook page appears to have been deleted and their website is no longer active.

The group originally called themselves the Anti-Mask Task Force and was “designed to stop face mask orders from spreading nationwide and globally,” according to Newsweek. The name they used was also similar to the moniker used by the environmental organization Freedom to Breathe, which advocates for clean air and awareness of climate change and supports the use of masks to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

fake face mask card
Fake card
| Credit: Facebook

In their statement, the Department of Justice made it clear that they were not behind the cards, nor did they endorse them.

“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 statement read.

These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department,” the statement 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.”

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As states continue the process of reopening, some are seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, and many government officials are requiring that people wear protective face coverings in public.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a new statewide mandate on Tuesday, which requires masks in indoor settings, as well as outdoor settings if social distance rules cannot be maintained. Individuals who violate the mandate will face a misdemeanor charge.

"I think of these face coverings, in some sense, as a statement," he said during a press conference. "It's a statement that when you wear it, it means you care about people, because it means you want to reduce the risk that you are going to infect another person."

Residents in Connecticut, California, Delaware, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Illinois are also required to wear masks in public.

In a recent study, researchers found that the risk of transmission went down 85 percent when people wore a mask, and that N95 masks did the best job of reducing the spread of the virus spread.

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