The late afternoon excursion to Yogurtland was supposed to be a fun family outing for Mireya Mora and her 1-year-old son.
But instead of enjoying a sweet treat together, the mother and son left the frozen yogurt store in San Jose, Calif., earlier this month "traumatized" following what Mora alleges was a racially charged spat over social distancing that ended with an unidentified white woman deliberately coughing on the young boy multiple times.
"She coughed on him super hard. It wasn't an accident," Mora, who is Hispanic, told The Washington Post. "A person with a heart that cares would not do that to a baby."
Authorities in San Jose say they are now searching for the woman, described as white and in her 60s, and have classified the June 12 incident as an assault, according to a Monday statement from the police department asking for the public's assistance.
Citing findings from a preliminary investigation, police said the heated exchange was triggered after the woman became upset with Mora, who was behind her in line at Yogurtland, for not properly social distancing - a health precaution that has been widely enforced as the country continues reopening amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In surveillance footage released by the police, Mora, who is pushing a stroller, can be seen walking through the business with her grandmother in tow, and stopping when she reaches a bright pink line drawn on the floor. Mora told The Post that she and her family adhered to coronavirus guidelines, including wearing masks, the entire time they were inside. She noted that when the woman initially complained about her to a Yogurtland worker, the employee also confirmed that Mora was following the rules.
There is, however, another reason the 23-year-old mother believes the woman singled her out.
"I believe it's racism because the woman in front of me, she did not start harassing me and my family until I started speaking Spanish to my grandmother," Mora said. "She was super close to the people in front of her, they were also white, she did not tell them anything. She didn't have a problem with it."
While arguing over social distancing, Mora said the woman also repeatedly told her "You don't understand," and referred to her "not speaking English."
Then, in a matter of seconds, the verbal fight took a turn.
"It happened so fast," Mora said.
In the video, Mora appears to have just finished saying something when the woman suddenly makes a beeline toward the family, taking off her mask as she walks. Once she gets near Mora's stroller, she leans down and unleashes exaggerated coughs in the direction of the young boy. Mora reacts quickly, yanking the hood of the stroller over her son's face.
Mora said the woman coughed at least three times before swiftly walking back toward the yogurt machines where she resumed filling her cup.
"My hands were shaking. I couldn't even speak," Mora said. "My heart was racing."
Meanwhile, Mora said other patrons at Yogurtland started yelling at the woman. Not long after, video showed the woman walking purposefully out of the business, the unpaid-for yogurt still in hand.
More than a week has gone by since, yet Mora is still struggling to process what happened.
"It makes me so speechless. I'm still in shock," she said. "How can someone do this? There's no way to analyze it, to justify what this woman did."
Her son, she said, now frequently wakes up in the middle of the night crying and scared, calling for his mother.
"He's been traumatized," Mora said, adding that her son was looking up at the woman when she coughed at him.
Thus far, Mora said she and her family have not had any symptoms leading them to believe they contracted the coronavirus.
It is unclear whether the woman will face charges, but other incidents of deliberate coughing during the pandemic have been met with serious consequences.
A man in New Jersey who coughed on an employee of a Wegmans store then claimed to have coronavirus was charged with harassment, obstructing law enforcement and making terroristic threats in March. That month, another man in Pennsylvania was charged with similar offenses after police said he intentionally coughed near a senior citizen who was recovering from pneumonia. The man in that case also allegedly said he was infected with coronavirus.
The woman accused of coughing on Mora's son did not appear to say anything about having the virus, but Mora said she hopes the woman is criminally charged and held accountable for her actions.
"Her coughing is a deadly weapon because she doesn't know if she has coronavirus," she said. "She attacked a defenseless baby."