Ontario merchant calls COVID-19 a ‘hoax’ and tells coughing customers to visit

A Minden, Ont., store owner is facing sharp criticism and possible legal action after appearing to encourage people online to ignore government warnings about social distancing during the current coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic hoax, we are cancelling nothing,” read part of a post on the weekend by the owner of Yummy Mummy Emporium & Apothecary, located 200 kilometres northeast of Toronto.

The store is owned and run by Amandha Vollmer, who describes herself as a “mompreneur.”

Vollmer’s Facebook post went on to encourage customers to visit the store regardless of their health status, even in the midst of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: All non-essential workplaces ordered to close in Ontario

“You can come over here with a fever and cough all you want. We know that germs don’t cause disease,” the post read.

“You are welcome to visit us for March break while fools cancel everything according to government propaganda.”

The post quickly caught the attention of readers of the popular Yummy Mummy Club, an unrelated, popular Toronto-based online community that focuses on issues affecting mothers.

Its founder and CEO, Erica Ehm, began getting calls from readers after Vollmer’s post went up.

“The information she is sharing right now is sure to spread the virus … it is in itself a virus,” said Ehm, who asked Global News to investigate.

“[She] has used my company name for her business, an online property for women, we are sharing essential information about keeping kids inside. This woman’s information is dangerous and is also infringing on my copyright.”

Global News travelled to Minden to find out why Vollmer was advising potentially sick customers to come to the store, which sells items including medical jewelry, essential oils and Himalayan crystal salt.

She says she wanted to spur a reaction.

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“We have to start talking about viruses and the history of viruses and what’s going on here; there’s madness going on here,” she said.

“There’s a lot of fear and a lot of misinformation here and we have a grossly misinformed public,” she said.

Vollmer’s Facebook statements are directly opposed to accepted science and advice from local, provincial, and federal governments and the World Health Organization, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vollmer says she holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Biotechnology and a Doctor of Naturopathy. She told Global News she does not practice naturopathy.

But on Feb. 7, the College of Naturopaths of Ontario issued Vollmer a cease and desist warning as part of its complaints and investigation process.

The College cited Vollmer for “Advertising, practising, and/or otherwise holding out as a naturopath” and ordered her to stop, according to its public registry.

Despite the warning, Vollmer said she is well-educated and her point of view is worth listening to.

“It’s not like I’m coming from nowhere. I’ve read a lot, I’ve researched a lot,” she said in the interview.

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Ehm contacted Facebook and Twitter asking them for help, alleging Vollmer was damaging her Yummy Mummy brand and possibly endangering those who might ignore safety warnings based on the post.

“We have been in touch with Erica and we are reviewing the content she shared with us,” said Erin Taylor, a spokesperson for Facebook in Canada.

Taylor said Facebook has been busy “removing content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them.”

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Ehm is adamant the company that has a similar name to hers is dangerous, as well as infringing on her legal rights.

“Shut this Yummy Mummy Emporium down,” she pleaded.

Asked her motive for encouraging people in the community to disregard health warnings, she said insisted there’s need for more discussion.

“I wanted to talk about it, no one is having a conversation. It’s a perfect time when everyone is holed up in their houses to do some research.”

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