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Nelson thrust into media spotlight over mask wearing

The "Wearing is Caring" sign handed out to businesses by Nelson Chamber of Commerce has been well received by the public. — The Nelson Daily

It’s been said that even bad press is better than no press at all.

However, Nelson would like to be known as the picturesque city nestled in the Selkirk Mountains on the edge of beautiful Kootenay Lake tourists love to visit instead of a place where patrons spit at staff at hotel coffee shops for not wanting to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Friday, media reports said an irate customer at Empire Coffee Shop in the Adventure Hotel on Vernon Street spat at staff after refusing to wear a mask.

The staff member, who confronted the irate customer and was spit at, later felt ill from the experience. She was later airlifted to Kelowna Hospital with what was determined to be a heart attack.

Nelson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Thomson said the Empire incident is very alarming to a business just doing its best to comply with Public Health Office.

The recent incidents at three local businesses is upsetting, as these businesses are trying their best to follow PHO and WorkSafe BC mandates,” Thomson told The Nelson Daily.

“And to have a customer or perhaps an anti-mask protester take it out on employees or businesses is just beyond what would be acceptable.”

Last Friday, a customer spat on a staff member at the Empire Coffee shop on Baker Street. — The Nelson Daily

Thomson, who was in the downtown core last week handing out “Wearing is Caring” signs to local businesses, said the past eight months during COVID-19 has been a really tumultuous time for owners trying to stay afloat.

He said the mandatory mask public health order by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, that came down last week was just one more thing business had to quickly work into daily operations.

“This mandatory mask policy is totally accepted by a huge percentage of business and consumers,” Thomson explained.

There have been push back from some members of the community regarding mask wearing.

Kootenay Co-op grocery store has hired security following a few recent incidents.

There have also been anti-mask protests the past couple of weekends in Nelson, one held outside City Hall and the other on Baker Street outside the CIBC.

A business owner on Baker Street told The Nelson Daily Wednesday, that for the most part, the new mask order by the Provincial Health Office has been widely accepted, with many downtown shoppers wearing masks on the street as well as inside stores while shopping.

“Businesses are doing whatever is possible to stay open for business,” Thomson said.

“(They are doing their best to) employ a few people and still be able to pay bills at the end of the month.”

After locating the spitting suspect, Nelson Police continue to investigate the incident.