SEATTLE — The state of Washington is warning of a fraud that encourages people to claim they have a disability so they can dodge the state’s mask mandate, which takes effect Friday.
Officials pointed to home-made “face mask exempt” cards circulating on Facebook, which stated that wearing a face-covering poses a physical or mental risk to the holder.
“Under the Americans with Disability (sic) Act, I am not required to disclose my condition to you,” the fraudulent card stated.
It warned of fines to any business that questions the validity of the card and said denying access will be reported to the "Freedom to Breath Agency," a made-up group whose website and Facebook pages have been taken down.
“To hear that people are taking advantage of that, it definitely makes my blood boil,” said Lacey Pires, of Auburn, whose daughter has autism and sensory sensitivity, and as a result has difficulty wearing a mask.
“Those laws are in place to protect people who actually need them, and it's frustrating for a family like mine who is doing everything we possibly can to keep our daughter safe, including literally not taking her anywhere for the last four months,” Pires said.
Washington’s mask mandate takes effect Friday and requires face-covering in indoor public spaces like businesses and offices. Anyone outdoors must cover their nose and mouth when they cannot stay six feet away from others.
People who have breathing problems, severe anxiety, claustrophobia, cerebral palsy, or autism might not be able to wear face masks and are exempted from the mask requirement.
The Washington Emergency Management Division said businesses cannot be forced to allow someone inside without a mask.
They are expected to instead make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who cannot wear masks. Those accommodations include allowing a customer to wear a face shield or loose scarf around the face, directing customers to online ordering or curbside delivery, or handling inquires over the phone or through video calls, the state said.