A Campbell River woman who became irate at physical-distancing measures and forcibly coughed in the face of a grocery store supervisor in the early days of the pandemic has been convicted of causing a disturbance and two counts of assault.
Provincial court Judge Barbara Flewelling found Kimberly Woolman, 60, guilty of assault by coughing in the face of Save-on-Foods supervisor Jacqueline Poulton, and of assaulting assistant store manager Gordon Dawson by ramming her shopping cart into him.
Flewelling also convicted Woolman of causing a disturbance by yelling and swearing that “COVID wasn’t f—-ing real” during the incident in the store on April 24, 2020.
At the time, provincial health officers were urging people to maintain at least two metres of distance between themselves and others.
The trial heard that Poulton was at the front of the store near the check-out area, which had been cordoned off to prevent congestion. Woolman entered the store and “aggressively asked” Poulton why the area was blocked off.
“When Ms. Poulton explained the store policy and requirement to comply with public health orders, Ms. Woolman told her COVID was not real and that it was stupid,” Flewelling wrote in her April 13 judgment.
When Woolman said she would not obey the physical-distancing measures, Poulton asked her to leave. Instead, Woolman walked toward the back of the store, with Poulton following at a distance of two metres, repeatedly asking her to leave.
Woolman screamed that COVID was fake, then suddenly stopped walking, reducing the distance between the two women. Woolman then turned around and forcibly coughed two times in the direction of Poulton’s face, Flewelling found.
Poulton told her to leave the store — “now.” But Woolman continued walking away with her grocery cart, yelling that COVID wasn’t real.
Two other employees arrived to help Poulton guide Woolman from the store. Then a fourth employee, who came to help the others,“essentially kept her encircled and moving forward so she would leave.”
Dawson arrived at the entrance to the store to help the others. He took hold of the front of Woolman’s cart to prevent her leaving with unpaid groceries. Woolman tried to wrestle the cart out of his hands, then pushed it into him.
Poulton testified that she was shaken and concerned about being infected after being coughed on.
Dawson testified that Woolman was swearing a lot, yelling that COVID was not real and they were all “f—-ing stupid.” The situation was volatile and out of control, he testified. “She kept trying to ram the cart into me.”
Flewelling found that Woolman’s coughing on Poulton was deliberate and intentional. She concluded that coughing results in an expulsion of air and that secretions from air, such as respiratory droplets, may be infected with a virus.
On April 24, 2020, public health believed the virus was spread by droplets expelled from lung air, particularly to people within two metres of the droplets, the judge noted.
“I conclude that when Ms. Woolman coughed at or on Ms. Poulton, she was emitted a force which consisted of lung air which included respiratory droplets. I conclude that the virus can be found in the exhaled respiratory droplets and when directed at Ms. Poulton in an indoor setting within [two metres] meets the definition of force … in the Criminal Code,” Flewelling wrote.
A date for Woolman’s sentencing was expected to be set Tuesday.