Coronavirus: Woman ‘coughs on £30,000 of goods’ at supermarket in ‘twisted prank’

Andy Gregory
The owner of Gerrity's Supermarket reported it had been forced to dispose of £30,000 of groceries, meat and bakery products: Gerrity's Supermarket/Facebook

A supermarket has complained of being forced to throw away nearly £30,000 of food after a woman purposefully coughed on their produce, in what it dubbed a “twisted” coronavirus prank.

The woman allegedly entered the shop on Wednesday afternoon and proceeded to cough on groceries, meats and bakery products.

Despite retailers battling to keep shelves stocked amid supply chain fears and stockpiling, the Pennsylvania store said it had “no choice but to throw out all product she came in contact with”.

“While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and well-being of our customers,” the chain’s co-owner Joe Fasula said.

Working with the Hanover Township health inspector, staff identified and disinfected every area she had been in, disposing of any potentially affected produce.

“Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000 (£29,400),” Mr Fasula wrote on Facebook.

“We are checking to see if our insurance company will cover it, but even if they do, our rates will surely go up next year.

“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food. While it is always a shame when food is wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing.”

Staff contacted local police and the case was reportedly passed up the chain to Luzerne County District Attorney’s office.

Mr Fasula said that while the store does not believe the woman is infected, it is expected that she will be tested for coronavirus, adding: ”They have assured me that they will be aggressively pursuing numerous charges.”

Amid unprecedented global efforts to limit the deadly spread of the pandemic, such incidents are being treated very seriously.

In a memo to US attorneys and federal law enforcement on Tuesday, the Justice Department said that threats or attempts to spread coronavirus can be considered terrorism.

As a result, a man in New Jersey now faces up to seven years in prison and vast fines after he was charged with making terrorist threats for allegedly coughing at a supermarket employee who told him to stand further away from a display of prepared food.

The state’s attorney general said George Falcone “allegedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus” before telling two other employees that they are “lucky to have jobs” at the Wegman’s store in Manalapan.

Mr Fasula, meanwhile, thanked his staff for helping with the day’s “challenging” events, adding that employees had stayed late and even come into work on their day off in order to help.

“I would also like to thank the people who will going in early tomorrow to get the departments restocked,” he said.

“One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast Pennsylvania.”

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