By now, you've probably seen at least one viral video of a 'Karen' trying to get out of wearing a face mask. Earlier this week, a woman who refused to wear a face mask in a Starbucks went viral after she attempted to shame the barista for refusing to serve her.
Somehow, wearing a face mask has become a political issue rather than a medical one.
This is most evident in a Facebook group titled the Freedom to Breathe Agency, which is promoting a fake face mask exemption card with a seal which resembles that of the Department of Justice, according to Newsweek.
The cards appear to be intended to prevent businesses from denying people service for not wearing a face mask.
The card is titled: "Face Mask Exempt Card" and includes a number for the Department of Justice's Americans with Disability Act (ADA) violation reporting hotline.
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."
"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."
It also includes a logo and website for the "Freedom to Breathe Agency" (FBA), which is not a real government agency. The link included on the card leads to an error page.
While it is true that businesses are not allowed to question the nature of a person's disability or request documentation proving the condition under the ADA, face masks are much more of a grey area.
According to the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute, the ADA does not have any rules that address the required use of face masks by governments or private business owners.
However, governments and business owners are still required to make "reasonable modifications" to their face mask rules to allow people with disabilities into their business.
Their recommendations are as follows:
"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."
Their advice makes clear that "the requirement to modify a policy, practice, or procedure does not include individuals without disabilities, as they are not protected under the ADA."
The Freedom to Breathe Agency Facebook group was initially established as the Anti-Mask Task Force, according to Newsweek. The page states that it was "designed to stop face mask orders from spreading nationwide and globally."
"Breathing is a vital biological activity to physical and emotional well being. Oxygen is No.1 nutrient for every living organism, including humans. Wearing a mask is an unhealthy obstruction of oxygen flow that can lead to hypoxemia and hypoxia can permanently damage the brain, lungs, heart, and about any organ. We must protect our birthright to breathe. This is NOT negotiable," their mission statement reads.
The Department of Justice responded to the cards, stating: "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."
"These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department. 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."
U.S. District Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin added: “Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle. These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
Lenka Koloma, the founder of the Freedom to Breathe Agency, told TODAY that the cards never stated that they were issued by the ADA or DOJ. She said the names are mentioned to "tell people the references under which they are protected."
"The FTBA card was issued so people are aware of their rights," she said.
Amid a surge in coronavirus cases in some states, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that mask-wearing is "purely a public health issue," and not a political one.
"You're part of a dynamic pandemic process, so you getting infected, even if you don't realize it, is propagating the continuance of the outbreak," Fauci said.
"You need to pause and say, wait a minute, we're starting to open and things aren't going right. What do we need to do to correct that."
"Everybody should wear a mask when out public," Fauci added. "It should not be a political issue. It is purely a public health issue."