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Face Mask Exemption Cards Are Fake, Department of Justice Warns

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  • A picture that went viral on social media shows a card that appears to grant an individual an exemption from wearing face masks in public.
  • That card incorrectly cites the American with Disabilities Act and mentions penalties from a fraudulent organization, The Freedom To Breathe Agency.
  • On June 24, The Department of Justice issued a statement clarifying the cards are not endorsed by the department in any way.

Face Mask Exemption Card

The Department of Justice confirmed on Wednesday that a card claiming to exempt someone from wearing a face mask in public was not backed back the government, despite claims to the contrary.

Photos of a small ID shaped card are swirling around social media that state the card bearer is “exempt from any ordinance requiring face mask usage in public.” It goes on to detail that wearing a mask “posses a mental and/or physical risk to me.”

As far as why the bearer is exempt, it claims, “under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you.”

The card goes on to detail that violating the ADA could result in penalties of up to $75,000 for a first violation, and upwards of $150,000 for subsequent violations. It also features the seal of the Department of Justice, indicating that the government agency endorses the card. The cards ends with the line, “DENYING ACCESS TO YOUR BUSINESS/ORGANIZATION WILL BE ALSO REPORTED TO FTBA FOR FURTHER ACTIONS.” 

The latest version of the Face Mask Exempt Card

Debunking the Exemption

To make it clear, the card carries no authority and is fake. A few standout red-flags are the fact that it gets the name of the ADA wrong; it’s the “Americans with Disabilities Act”, not Disability.Additionally, it spells “poses” as “posses,” although there have been updated versions of the card that fix these issues.

Another feature that indicates it’s not a card issued by the government is the mention of the FTBA, which stands for the Freedom to Breathe Agency; a distinctly non-governmental organization. The associated website listed, www.ftbagency.com, doesn’t actually work.

Screenshot of ftbagency.com taken June 26, 2020.

These fake exemption documents are not exactly new. In fact, these cards are actually just the latest version making rounds on sites like Facebook, and the tactic has been around since municipalities first issued face-coverings ordinances in order to combat COVID-19. 

This version is from as far back as March 18, 2020.

While people have printed out the cards, they carry no authority, and the Department of Justice even issued a statement to clarify this after the FTBA card went viral.

“The Department of Justice has been made aware of posting or flyers on the internet regarding the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal,” the agency wrote.

“These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department.”

Does the ADA Still Apply?

For some, questions still may remain regarding whether or not portions of the card are correct, such as the implication that a business can’t deny service to someone refusing to wear a face mask due to a medical condition.

According to the ADA National Network, which is a network funded by the US Department of Education and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the ADA does protect people with disabilities from being denied “public accommodations.” Most businesses fall into that category, though, there are exceptions that would apply during the coronavirus pandemic.

The organization writes states on its website, “The ADA expressly provides that a public accommodation may exclude an individual if that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be mitigated by appropriate modifications in the public accommodation’s policies or procedures or by the provision of auxiliary aids.”

Not wearing a mask greatly increases the chances that a carrier of COVID-19 could spread the virus and pose a serious risk to public health, especially if the carrier is still in the virus’ incubation period, when symptoms might not be clearly present.

Recent research published in The Lancet showed that not wearing a mask puts the risk of transmitting the virus at 17.4%. With the use of a mask or respirator, the risk of transmission dropped over five-fold down to 3.1%.

See what others are saying: (Today) (Daily Dot) (CNN)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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