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Michigan officials: ‘Face mask exempt’ cards illegitimate

Face coverings required by law in Michigan business; government agencies not endorsing 'exemptions'

A woman puts a mask on a child.
A woman puts a mask on a child. (August de Richelieu/Pexels stock image)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan officials are warning of fake “face mask exempt” cards that have been circulated by some groups in an effort to bypass wearing face coverings in businesses and locations where they are required amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

July 10, 2020: Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 68,295; Death toll now at 6,039

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says some groups have offered downloadable “exemption cards” and flyers that appear to be government-endorsed and claim the holder does not have to wear a face covering. The cards may have logos for a group called the Freedom to Breathe Agency or even the U.S. Department of Justice -- who is not endorsing such exemptions.

The cards are also said to implicitly threaten to report businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act if they deny someone access for failure to wear a face covering, officials said.

“These groups are trying to spread misinformation about the use of face coverings, and the unfortunate outcome is that they are also endangering the lives of many people,” Nessel said. “Business owners should understand that these face mask exempt cards are fake, and people should continue to wear face coverings unless the individual is unable medically to tolerate one.” 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Friday requiring people to wear face coverings in indoor and some outdoor spaces as COVID-19 cases increase across the state. Businesses will also be required to refuse entry and service to individuals who don’t comply with the face covering requirement.

A willful violation of the order is a misdemeanor subject to a $500 criminal penalty, but no term of confinement may be imposed on individuals who violate the mask requirement.

COVID-19 cases have been increasing at a more rapid rate than previous weeks in Michigan and across the country. Gov. Whitmer said wearing a mask can reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70 percent.

“We cannot afford to play fast and loose with the rules, and just look at what’s happening with Florida,” Whitmer said. “It took less than two weeks for Florida to go from 100,000 to 200,000 positive cases, and the cases there are still climbing. Last week, they reported over 11,000 cases in one day. That can happen very quickly anywhere in this country if we drop our guard. Statewide, one in five cases are patients that are between the ages of 25 and 34. So, youth will not protect you from caring and spreading this virus to your friends and family and neighbors. We have got to all work together to protect one another.”

Below is a chart from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that shows the risk of COVID-19 transmission between individuals when face coverings are and are not worn.

A chart from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission in various scenarios when face coverings are and are not worn. The chart shows a high risk of COVID-19 transmission when no face coverings are worn, and the least risk of transmission when coverings are worn by both parties.
A chart from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission in various scenarios when face coverings are and are not worn. The chart shows a high risk of COVID-19 transmission when no face coverings are worn, and the least risk of transmission when coverings are worn by both parties. (MDHHS)

Click here to learn more about face coverings and their effectiveness for slowing the spread of COVID-19 from the CDC.

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