A Pennsylvania grocery store had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of food after a woman intentionally coughed on them as a twisted coronavirus prank. The woman is, now, in police custody and is facing criminal charges.
The woman, identified by Hanover Township Police Department as 35-year-old Margaret Cirko, evidently, entered a Gerrity’s Supermarket and started making verbal threats that she was sick then coughed on the fresh produce, some bakery items as well as the meat case. She, reportedly, continued to do so before attempting to steal a 12-pack of beer as she was being ordered by staff to leave the store.
Although the woman is not believed to have coronavirus, the grocery staff did not take any chances and, immediately, removed and threw out all the products that the woman came in contact with. Staff also conducted a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the entire area.
All in all, Gerrity’s estimates the total value of the produce that was wasted to be $35,000.
“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food,” store co-owner Joe Fasula said in a statement published on Facebook. “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.”
Because of the incident, Cirko has already been charged with two felony counts of terrorist threats — one felony count of threats to use a “biological agent” and one felony count of criminal mischief. She has also been charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal attempt to commit retail theft and disorderly conduct. Bail is set at $50,000 and her preliminary hearing will be on April 8.
Evidently, the woman was already known to police from “prior police contacts.” While officials don’t believe that she has coronavirus, Fasula noted that they will make sure to get her tested.
“The only silver lining to this travesty is that it gave us the unfortunate opportunity to test our protocols and demonstrate how seriously we take your safety. At one point, we had over 15 employees involved in the disposal and clean up,” Fasula said.
This week, the U.S. Department of Justice warned that people, who will deliberately spread coronavirus or harass others using the virus, could be charged with terrorism. The warning comes after several disturbing reports of people deliberately coughing on produce or even store employees. Some even, reportedly, licked grocery store items or public toilets for a so-called coronavirus challenge.