Lenin Gutierrez was working at the front register of a Starbucks in San Diego on Monday when a woman walked in without a mask.
San Diego County requires people to wear face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, so he asked if the woman, Amber Lynn Gilles, had one.
"She flipped me off, and she said, 'No, I don't need one,' and she started cursing up a storm," he said in a video posted on Facebook.
Gilles, who has since been dubbed a "Karen," then shared a picture of Gutierrez on Facebook and criticized him for not serving her. The post has been shared by tens of thousands of people.
A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $22,000 for Gutierrez, an aspiring dancer.
More than 2,000 people have shelled out more than $22,000 for a Starbucks employee who on Monday refused to serve a woman who wasn't wearing a face mask at the San Diego location where he works.
The customer, identified as Amber Lynn Gilles, took a photo of the employee, Lenin Gutierrez, and shared it on Facebook, along with a complaint about him. "Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption," she wrote.
The post had been shared some 47,000 times and amassed over 133,000 comments as of Thursday -- and Gilles had been dubbed a "Karen."
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Despite the criticism heaped on her, Gilles doubled down. "Masks are stupid and so are the people wearing them," she said in a comment on the post.
San Diego County has required people to wear face masks in public since May 1. The coronavirus primarily spreads via droplets when an infected person coughs, speaks, or sneezes, and research has found that masks help to curb the spread of the disease.
"The coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are part of our path to reopening San Diego," officials said.
As of Thursday, 196,046 people in California had tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,726 had died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The state's outbreak is now second only to New York's.
Cloth masks, homemade face coverings, bandanas, scarves, or neck gaiters are necessary when people in San Diego County are waiting in line, going to a business, using public transit, picking up to-go orders, getting medical help, or working any type of essential job.
Matt Cowan began a GoFundMe campaign to tip Gutierrez for "standing his ground when faced with a Karen in the wild." It's already raised more than $22,000.
Cowan told KGTV, a local ABC affiliate, that donors were "rallying around somebody for doing what they're supposed to do and trying to protect everyone else."
"It just goes to show you there are a lot of good people out there and that outweighs the bad," Cowan said.
Gutierrez said in a video posted on Facebook on Wednesday that it had been "shocking" to see an encounter that lasted only a few minutes "get so big."
He described working the register on Monday and asking Gilles if she had a face mask. She said she didn't, but before he could show her a sheet of paper that described the guidelines Starbucks was following, "she flipped me off, and she said, 'No, I don't need one,' and she started cursing up a storm," he said.
Gutierrez said Gilles stormed out of the shop, only to return to ask for Gutierrez's name and to take a picture of him. She also threatened to call "corporate," he said, before she finally left.
The silver lining has been the unexpected but "amazing" outpouring of support, he said, which will help him pursue his dream of becoming a dancer and sharing the art form with others.
"With this donation that everyone provided with the GoFundMe, I can make these dreams a reality," he said. "I can fuel my passions even better now. So from the bottom of my heart, just thank you so much."
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