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Orange County Woman Accuses Gelson’s of Discrimination Over Mask Policy

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  • 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.

Responses

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)

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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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