Woman in Nelson, B.C. suffers heart attack after being spit upon by man refusing to wear mask

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A hotel worker in Nelson, B.C., suffered a heart attack shortly after a confrontation with a patron who refused to wear a mask and wouldn’t leave the hotel’s coffee shop.

Rob Little, manager of The Adventure Hotel, says it happened last Friday when their accountant was called to help deal with a man who was shouting and ignoring new provincial rules to wear a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Little says when the woman intervened, the man spat on her and walked away.

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Police were called and Little says about 90 minutes later, the accountant, who’s in her 50s, collapsed from a heart attack that required her immediate transfer to hospital in Kelowna.

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Nelson police say the man was taken into custody and is banned from the coffee shop pending a court appearance on an assault charge, while officers try to determine if there’s a connection between the spitting incident and the woman’s heart attack.

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Little says his co-worker is conscious and able to speak with family but remains in intensive care “fighting for her life.”

He says polarizing views about wearing masks during the pandemic are disappointing and frustrating, especially in the usually laid-back, friendly city of Nelson.

“We are already dealing with so much, with what is going on, that this is just adding fuel to a fire that doesn’t need to be there,” says Little.

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B.C. announced last week that masks are mandatory in all public spaces and solicitor general Mike Farnworth unveiled new penalties on Tuesday for anyone ignoring the order.

Violators are subject to a $230 fine, although anyone unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance is exempt from the new rules.

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