- A viral video shows a California woman refusing to wear a mask inside a Gelson’s grocery store, claiming to have a medical condition that prevents her from wearing one.
- When a manager offers to shop for her, she says she doesn’t want others to know what she’s purchasing and doesn’t want to give out her credit card information.
- The woman identified herself as Shelley Lewis and threatened to sue for discrimination, but internet sleuths claim she is a flat earther who has been frequently posting about her frustrations with COVID-19 regulations.
- While some health departments say those with difficulty breathing should not wear masks, doctors have advised that these people try to find a way to make wearing a mask work for them right now.
Video Goes Viral
A woman in Orange County, California went viral over the weekend after posting a video of herself refusing to wear a mask inside a Gelson’s supermarket.
“I have a medical condition that I can’t wear a mask and I’m not required by HIPAA rules and regulations to disclose that,” the woman, who later identifies herself as Shelley Lewis, says to the store manager.
The video was taken outside the entrance to the store and follows a manager and another employee trying to explain their mask requirement. Lewis never turns the camera on herself during the exchange.
The manager offers to have workers in the store shop for her but stressed that Lewis cannot be allowed in without a mask. Lewis refuses this service because she claims she wants to purchase“private” items that she does not want others to see.
“You’re discriminating against me now, do you know that?” Lewis asks. “You’re discriminating against me.”
The store’s manager says she can call the corporate office, but he still will not allow her inside. Lewis then threatened him with a lawsuit. He once again offers to have her shopping done for her, and this time she refuses because she doesn’t want to give out her credit card information.
As the manager goes to get a card with contact information for corporate, Lewis continues recording and states she is at the Gelson’s in Dana Point, California. As she continues talking, an employee can be seen cleaning grocery carts while dancing along to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” which is playing in the background.
When Lewis comments that he is pretty “chipper,” he explains that he is happy to be working at Gelson’s because he’s usually a bartender and would not have a job during the pandemic otherwise.
“Well good,” Lewis responds. “I’m glad you guys think it’s okay to like, infringe on people’s rights here. You’re infringing on people’s rights here.
The video ends with the manager handing her a business card. The dancing employee thanks her for her patience before she heads off.
This video gained a lot of traction on Reddit and went viral on Twitter as well. One of the most shared versions of it comes from a tweet posted by Khary Penebaker, a member of the Democratic National Committee. In it, he calls Lewis’ behavior “pure arrogance.”
Others were also critical of Lewis and her reasons for not cooperating with the Gelson’s manager. Some noted that under no circumstances would her transaction be private, as security camera footage would catch her selecting her items, and she would have to show them at checkout.
Others also said that the store would also obtain her credit card information regardless of who swiped the card in the reader.
Who is Shelley Lewis?
Others began to dig to see if they could find out who Lewis is, and several tweets claimed she is a flat-earther. While Rogue Rocket cannot independently verify that this is her, the Flat Earth Conference does have a bio for a Shelley Lewis. That bio links to a YouTube channel and Facebook page, both of which are either empty or unavailable.
Heavy has identified her as this Shelley Lewis. The Daily Mail also used details from Flat Earth Conference’s bio of Lewis when identifying her, as well as the same photo used on the site. Twitter users have shared screenshots allegedly taken from her Facebook page where she makes remarks about her frustrations with COVID-19 regulations. She also speaks out against contact tracing.
Issues With Wearing Masks
This video has also sparked questions about whether or not there are medical conditions that do present a person from wearing a mask. According to both the University of Maryland Medical System and the New York Health Department, people with difficulty breathing should not wear masks. This, however, has been met with some backlash from doctors who believe that these people should still try.
9 News, a local NBC affiliate in Colorado did an interview with Dr. Payal Kohli who said that people who find it difficult to breathe in masks should wear cotton masks that are more breathable. He said they should also stay inside or in isolated areas as much as possible so that they do not have to wear masks frequently. He also told people who struggle with wearing them because of seasonal allergies that it is especially important that they wear them because their sneezing or coughing could cause them to spread droplets.
WDRB in Kentucky has also found that some people with certain kinds of post-traumatic stress disorder struggle with wearing masks. They spoke to someone who was once abused while a cloth was tied around their mouth. Now, putting a mask on triggers panic attacks for that individual.
Since mask regulations began, stores and businesses have struggled with enforcing these rules. In some cases, businesses are implementing mask policies themselves. In others, states or counties around the country have ordered people to wear masks when in public.
“It gets pretty confrontational,” one Kroger employee in Illinois told Fox News. “People are getting in our faces and are really angry with our managers and employees when it’s not our rule.”
Tensions over masks have escalated so high in some cases, that a security guard in Michigan was killed after telling a customer to wear a mask.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Mail) (Complex) (The Daily Dot)
Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying
The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.
Amazon Endorses States Reform Act
Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.
The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.
The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.
The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.
While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.
The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.
That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill” because “it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”
Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.
“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)
CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron
Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.
A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron
COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.
The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.
One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week.
In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.
Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization.
By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.
Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.
Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates
Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.
Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.
While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.
Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.
Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent
Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
State Senator Proposes Legislation
Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent.
State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California.
“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”
“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”
Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians.
Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.
“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”
Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15.
Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.
In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.”
In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate.
The Fight to Vaccinate California
This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”
“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”
While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail.
“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added.