Protesters hijack US disability regulation to attempt to keep away from sporting masks

  • Some Americans who oppose mandatory face-covering instructions try to avoid them by ordering U.S. disability laws.
  • A social media document recommends reporting a disability that a mask may affect.
  • The document states that the rights of people are protected by the law on Americans with Disabilities and they are not required to report their disability to shopkeepers. The legal basis is weak.
  • The law states that disabilities must be considered unless there is “a significant risk to the health or safety of others”.
  • Someone hoping to sue a business under the Americans with Disabilities Act for denied entry would only be eligible if they were genuinely disabled.
  • You can find more stories on the Insider homepage.

Some Americans try to evade orders from companies or local governments to wear face-covering by claiming immunity under laws written to protect the rights of disabled people.

As the country’s coronavirus outbreak worsened in April, mandatory face-covering was introduced in some areas in shops, transportation networks and other public places.

According to Masks4All, a group formed by a collection of American scholars, as of Monday at least 13 states were under compulsory regulation, ranging from all public places to limited areas such as public transportation, where social distancing is not possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people wear fabric face covers in a crowded public (while reserving surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers).

FILE PHOTO: A New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer wearing a protective face mask stands at the Central Park Sheep Meadow entrance during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan, New York City, United States.  May 15, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly / File Photo

A police officer in a mask in New York City on Friday.


But not everyone adheres to the guidelines, and at least some turn to a convoluted and dubious legal guide posted on social media claiming to give them a free pass.

The claim that the tactic provides a legal basis for not wearing a mask has been deemed “largely false” by the fact-checking website Snopes.

The following happens:

  • According to the guide, when faced with senior management, you should say that you have an illness that means you cannot wear a mask.
  • The document cites two laws that supposedly allow people to also say that they “are not required to disclose my medical conditions”.
  • The laws in question are the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its goal is to protect patient privacy and the rights of around 61 million disabled Americans.
  • The letter warns of financial consequences for those who violate the ADA.
  • “Organizations and businesses can be fined up to $ 75,000 for the first ADA violation and $ 150,000 for each subsequent violation,” the document said.

It is true that Americans in general are not required to disclose medical conditions, and the ADA requires that companies should always try to meet people’s conditions.

However, the ADA says this does not apply in cases where health or safety could be affected by a “direct threat”.

According to the ADA, a direct threat is “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that a change in policy cannot address”.

FILE - In this file photo dated March 19, 2020, Rep. GA Hardaway, D-Memphis, wears a mask during the trial on the floor of the house in Nashville, Tennessee, amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Sharing information with first responders about people who test positive or have been exposed to COVID-19 does not violate privacy laws directed by the U.S. Department of Health.  That did not satisfy the skepticism about the use of the data.  “Tell us how it works for you, then tell us how well it worked.  Don't just tell us you need it for your job, ”said Hardway, a Memphis Democrat who chairs the Tennessee Black Caucus.  (AP Photo / Jonathan Mattise, file)

State Rep. GA Hardaway during the House Floor Trial in Nashville, Tennessee, in March.

Associated Press

The novel coronavirus, which according to Johns Hopkins University has killed more than 90,000 Americans and infected more than 1.5 million, would most likely qualify.

If someone denied access to a store wants to sue the store under the ADA, the law only applies to those who have registered disabilities under the ADA.

Those without relevant disabilities would not be covered, said Snopes.

The online guide started picking up steam in late April.

James Marter, a Republican nominee in Ward 14, Illinois, was an early distributor and posted it on his Facebook page on May 3.

In a popular online video, first posted on Reddit, a woman identifying herself as Shelly Lewis filmed herself trying out the tactic at a Gelson grocery store in Dana Point, California.

– Khary Penebaker (@ Kharyp) May 17, 2020

“I have a condition for which I can’t wear a mask. I don’t have to reveal it,” Lewis said to the manager, who then refused her entry unless she put on a mask.

“You’re discriminating against me,” said Lewis. “You are violating people’s rights.”

A US health and welfare spokesman told Insider, “This is not a guide issued or endorsed by the US Department of Health.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

A second document, also shared on social media, provides additional tips on avoiding mandatory face covering.

—Vladislav Davidzon #ReopenAmerica (@ecovladislav) May 18, 2020

On Tuesday, the Chicago Bagel Authority restaurant tweeted a letter from a customer who had unsuccessfully tried the tactic at one of its locations over the weekend.

LoadingSomething is loading. —CBA – Chicago Bagel Authority (@eatcba) May 19, 2020

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