Are Anti-Mask Masks Legal?

Authored by Jonathan Turley,

There is a new form of protests sweeping across the country as individuals put on anti-Mask masks to defy mandatory mask rules. The anti-masks are made of thin material, mesh or even crochet and are advertised as having no protective qualities for Covid-19.  The question is whether they are legal.  They appear to be so.

A popular video shows a man wearing a mesh mask to a Tampa Walmart and saying “It was almost like not wearing a mask at all. Nobody cared. That’s because it’s not about safety. It’s all about compliance.”

Most laws like Alabama‘s only refer to a “covering” not a mask with protective qualities:

2. Facial coverings for individuals. Effective July 16, 2020 at 5:00 P.M., each person shall wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: an indoor space open to the general public, a vehicle operated by a transportation service, or an outdoor public space where ten or more people.

Maryland requires masks:

“Facial coverings for individuals.

Effective July 16, 2020 at 5:00 P.M., each person shall wear a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: an indoor space open to the general public, a vehicle operated by a transportation service, or an outdoor public space where ten or more people are gathered.”

Even that is subject to exceptions. However, consider the definition of face coverings:

“Face Covering” means a covering that fully covers a person’s nose and mouth, but is not a Medical-Grade Mask. The term “Face Covering” includes, without limitation, scarves and bandanas.”

A mesh mask does cover the fact and, since scarves can be used, there is no effort to indicate a threshold protective level or dimension.  There are vast differences between masks and stores are unlikely to want to police the sufficiency of masks, particularly if the states do not specify minimal standards.  Even creative work on the noun “cover” does not help much.  Oxford defines it as simply “a thing that is put over or on another thing.”  A permeable material still covers the mouth and nose. It just does little else.

Twitter is replete with such anti-masks with such disclaimers as “Stylish, breathable and don’t protect you from a darn thing! Masks required? No problem! Breath free while making a statement.”

Credit: Twitter

It is a statement that most people would not want to make.  However, it is probably legal.  It can bring certain notoriety with a chance of lethal contraction.

However, with cities like Miami threatening $500 fines for failing to wear a mask, more people may choose to protest with these defiant masks — defeating the efforts to curtail the spread.

Given the recent incidents of people flipping out over masks, this is not likely to make things less confrontational. The latest example is some a person named Ruby Musso who filmed herself arguing with staff after she refused to wear a face mask. Multiple employees ask her to leave and she is called a “Karen.” She in turn calls them Nazis.

The store has received threats after the posting of the video.  It has become a familiar scene:

The anti-mask mask is likely to trigger new confrontations as stores or other customers object to failure to follow the “spirit” of these orders while others claim the right to comply in their own defiant way.

By the way, the anti-masks are not the only technical workaround pandemic rules.  New York bars are now reportedly serving “Cuomo Chips” for $1 to get around the ban on alcohol without food.  This is meant to satisfy the requirement that “all restaurants and bars statewide will be subject to new requirements that they must only serve alcohol to people who are ordering and eating food.”