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Starbucks Barista Gets $65,000 in Donations After Customer’s Mask Complaint

A Starbucks barista in San Diego has more than $65,000 to fuel his dream of teaching dance after an online fund-raiser was created in response to a customer who was not wearing a mask complained on Facebook about the company’s policies and her interaction with him.

The barista, Lenin Gutierrez, said in a Facebook video he posted on Wednesday that it had all started when he was working at the front register and asked the customer, Amber Lynn Gilles, if she had a face mask.

“No, I don’t need one,” Ms. Gilles told him, according to the video. She replied before he could show her a paper explaining the company’s mask policy during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said she started “cursing up a storm” and called people “sheep” before walking out. A few minutes later, she came back, he said, and asked for his name, took a photo of him and said she would call the corporate offices.

“I thought that was going to be the end of it,” said Mr. Gutierrez, who has worked at Starbucks since 2017. “I didn’t think it was going to come to this.”

The photo Ms. Gilles took was posted on her Facebook page with the comment: “Meet lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.” She expressed doubt about masks, saying they were “stupid and so are the people wearing them.”

The post got more than 110,000 likes and reactions, 133,000 comments and 49,000 shares, but it also ignited a firestorm that led to thousands of dollars for Mr. Gutierrez from more than 5,000 donors through a GoFundMe campaign.

As of Saturday afternoon, the site reported more than $65,000 in donations. It was headlined “Tips for Lenin Standing Up To A San Diego Karen,” a term used to describe a white woman who is angry or feels entitled.

Credit…Lenin Gutierrez

Ms. Gilles said that she was “denied and discriminated against” and that she had received “thousands” of death threats, according to a video on NBC7 in San Diego. “I didn’t harass anyone,” she said. “I called them out because I’m frustrated.”

Mr. Gutierrez and Ms. Gilles could not immediately be reached on Saturday.

Widely shared videos of customers arguing about not wearing masks at stores show how resistance is not uncommon and how businesses are trying to encourage compliance.

  • Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Starbucks said it had taken measures to keep employees and customers safe, including asking customers to wear facial coverings at its shops. A Starbucks representative said on Saturday that the company was abiding by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local mandates. Since May 1, San Diego County has required face coverings in many public areas.

Mr. Gutierrez said in his Facebook video that before the pandemic, he had taught dance to children. His Starbucks job has been a way to support his passions to pursue dance and teach it, he said, adding that the thousands of dollars raised could make his ambition a reality.

“That’s all I really want to do — to just be able to show dance to others and show them how much I love it and how much it affected me,” he said. “And if I can show that to someone else, that would be amazing and change their life like it changed mine.”


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