This weekend, a viral video showed a woman in a California Trader Joe's having a tantrum over the store's face mask requirements. The woman called other customers "Democratic pigs" as she raged against the public health measure. Twitter user D. Giles posted several clips of the interaction.
The videos were taken in a new Trader Joe's location that recently opened up in North Hollywood, Giles explained. They began with an adult White woman getting into a shouting match with three Trader Joe's employees, as everyone else in the store was wearing a face mask. She screamed curse words, threw merchandise and claimed that others were "harassing" her. When she noticed that Giles was recording her, the woman approached him to say her piece directly to the camera.
"That man harassed me for not wearing a mask!" she said. "I have a breathing problem, my doctor will not let me wear a mask! So anyone harassing me to wear a mask, you guys are violating federal law! Do you get that?"
California made masks a requirement in public spaces throughout the state starting on June 18. As a company, Trader Joe's "encourages" customers to wear masks. The company updated its COVID-19 info page over the weekend saying that it will comply with state mandates on this issue.
"It is our preference for and we strongly encourage customers to wear a mask or face covering while shopping in all our stores," the company said. "Where face coverings are required by state or local authorities, we communicate that to our customers as well."
As for the woman's claim that she has a medical condition which precludes her from wearing a face mask, many people refuted this claim over the weekend. One of the most viral examples is a video created by an asthmatic bartender, who uses an oximeter to show that her breathing is not hampered by the mask. She encourages viewers to stop trying this excuse.
Public Service Announcement:
The more you know — about masks... pic.twitter.com/7mB4SUOJP5— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) June 27, 2020
According to a report by Poynter, state, local and federal governments have every right to legally mandate that masks be worn in public. The report compares this to bans on smoking in public places, or the rule "no shirt, no shoes, no service." However, Syracuse University law professor Doron Dorfmann said that there are some legitimate medical conditions which make masks untenable for a small percentage of people.
"Someone with autism who has sensory issues, for example, or someone with a respiratory problem for which a mask would make breathing difficult," Dorfmann said. He added that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects these people from having to explain themselves, unless the state or local government has issued a "must wear" order for face masks. In that case, a business can simply deny service to anyone who refuses to wear a mask.