"I could feel her breath on my face."

By Claire Gillespie
June 15, 2020
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Every state has its own COVID-19 guidelines for wearing face coverings in public—and the rules in New York are pretty clear: All residents must wear a face covering outside of their home if they can’t maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people. But one New Yorker’s recent experience in a bagel shop shows that not everyone is on board with the official guidelines—and a video of the interaction is going viral. 

“Words truly cannot express my disappointment in humanity these days,” Allison Goodbaum, 32, wrote in the Facebook caption to the video, which was taken by another customer in the store, then sent to Goodbaum. “I know there are bigger problems in the nation right now but more and more it seems the people who are just trying to [stand up] for the right things are getting bulldozed by bullies”  

Goodbaum was at New York City Bagel Coffee House in Queens, New York, buying a bagel when she noticed another customer who was coughing, not covering her mouth, and not wearing a mask. “I was surprised she was allowed in the store to begin with,” she tells Health. “All other customers and staff members were wearing masks.” 

In an interview with Good Morning America, Goodbaum said she didn't say anything directly to the woman, but she did alert the coffee shop's staff. Goodbaum told one of the store employees that she should enforce the rule that patrons must wear a mark inside the store. “I told her, ‘you have someone here now who is not wearing a mask, coughing near the merchandise, and it’s putting the rest of us at risk,’” she says. 

The maskless woman overheard Goodbaum’s complaint and started shouting, telling Goodbaum she had COVID-19 antibodies and therefore didn't need to wear a mask in public. She then coughed in Goodbaum’s face several times. “I was shocked and pretty terrified in the moment because I could feel her breath on my face,” Goodbaum says. “She came so close to me, my initial reaction was to move away from her.” 

At that moment, the person taking the video and two other customers started yelling at the maskless woman, demanding that she leave the store. 

The incident shook Goodbaum so much, she actually got tested for COVID-19. “I felt really angry and scared, and also deflated that after so many months of social distancing, quarantining, disinfecting everything I touched, and washing my hands, this incident might be the way I contract the virus and potentially spread it to my parents, who are high risk,” she says. She waited a day after the incident to get tested, saying she read that “it takes some time for the virus to show up in a COVID test, so testing too early might result in a false positive or negative.” 

Goodbaum says she sees wearing a mask as a sign of respect to the community. “It sends a message to everyone else: ‘I respect your health and safety and I will do my part to keep those around me safe,’” she says. “Wearing a mask isn't that hard, and to me, it's the very least we can do to protect each other and stop the spread of coronavirus.” 

“I'm someone who follows the rules and if there are studies and science supporting the use of face masks in public then I will do it,” Goodbaum adds. “I don't have anything against people who refuse to wear a mask—I simply don't understand why there is so much resistance towards wearing one when out in public spaces.”

Now, a week later, Goodbaum says she’s still “on edge” waiting for her COVID-19 test results. “But overall I feel better knowing the woman was held accountable for her actions in some way,” she says. “I received a lot of support and kind words from the public and I am grateful for that.” 

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