Mask Exemption Cards From the ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency’? They’re Fake

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Cards for sale that claim to exempt people from wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic are fraudulent, federal officials said.

The cards — featuring a red, white and blue eagle logo and approximately the size of a business card — say the bearer is exempt from ordinances requiring them to wear masks in public.

“Wearing a face mask posses 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,” reads the card, which misspells “poses” and incorrectly names the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There’s also a warning that businesses or organizations can be reported to the Freedom to Breathe Agency, the group behind the cards. One version of the cards featured the Justice Department’s logo and listed a legitimate phone number where complaints about violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act can be submitted.

The cards were being sold online in boxes of at least 500 for $49.99.

Credit…Department of Justice

But such cards and fliers were not issued or endorsed by the Justice Department, federal officials said.

“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” said Matthew G.T. Martin, the United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”

Mr. Martin’s statement mentioned nothing about charges arising from the cards, and the group distributing them said no legal action had been taken against it.

The cards were created in response to complaints, the group’s communication team said in an email, and 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.”

The communications team declined to provide a named spokesperson, citing concerns over “the safety of our key members.” The group said it had received hundreds of reports and continued to get them daily from people who did not want to wear masks and because of that had been “denied access, discriminated, degraded, intimated and coerced.”

“These are people who have medical conditions where wearing a face mask puts them at significant health risk,” the group added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public places to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Footage of an episode on Friday at a Trader Joe’s store in California was the latest case of consumers resisting face mask policies at stores.

The founder of the Freedom to Breathe Agency, Lenka Koloma, advertised the cards on her Facebook page, and they were sold on a site created through the commerce platform Shopify. The site was unavailable on Sunday afternoon.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


“Shopify takes concerns around the goods and services made available by merchants on our platform very seriously,” a company spokeswoman, Sheryl So, said. “We have multiple teams who handle potential violations of Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy, including malicious and deceptive practices.”

The original Facebook group and a website on the Wix platform for the Freedom to Breathe Agency were also taken down. Facebook and Wix could not immediately be reached on Sunday.

The group behind the cards said it had requested support and information from Wix and that it had experienced “unlawful and unconstitutional censorship by Facebook.”

Facebook on Wednesday said it planned to combat coronavirus misinformation, by connecting people to credible information on its apps, investing $100 million in the news industry and supporting fact checkers.



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