A Pennsylvania mom and pop grocery store chain was forced to dispose of at least $35,000 worth of goods in one of its stores after a woman reportedly entered the premises and coughed on several cases of food.
What are the details?
The incident took place on Wednesday when the as-yet identified woman entered a Gerrity's Supermarket in Hanover Township and reportedly intentionally coughed all over the produce, bakery, meat case, and more.
Store employees immediately phoned police, who arrived on the scene. At least 15 store employees and members of the Hanover Township's health department worked furiously to clean and disinfect the store.
The chain's co-owner, Joe Fasula, addressed the incident in a now-viral Facebook post.
Fasula wrote, "Today was a very challenging day. At 2:20 PM today, I got a call from our Hanover Township store. The manager informed me that a ￼woman, who the police know to be a chronic problem in the community, came in to the store and proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery."
"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," he continued. "We ￼had no choice but to throw out all product she came in contact with. Working closely with the Hanover Township health inspector, we identified every area that she was in, we disposed of the product and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everything."
Fasula said that he estimates the total product loss to be around $35,000.
"I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food," Fasula added. "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.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼"
Fasula said that the District Attorney's office is handling the case and will be "aggressively pursuing numerous charges."
Local officials do not believe that the woman is infected with COVID-19, but will make sure that she is tested.
"I would like to thank every member of our organization who pitched in today to help, especially those of you who came in on your day off and those who stayed late," he concluded. "I would also like to thank the people who will going in early tomorrow to get the departments restocked. One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast PA."
WNEP-TV reports that the woman's mental state is currently being evaluated at a hospital.
This is hardly the first time an incident of this type has taken place.
Last week, Virginia police said area teenagers were filming themselves entering grocery stores and coughing on produce.
According to a Facebook post from the Purcellville Police Department, a group of teens coughed all over a store's fresh food section.
"Yesterday, March 18, 2020, an incident occurred at a local grocery store involving juveniles reportedly coughing on produce, while filming themselves and posting it on social media," the department said. "Police responded and are currently investigating the incident. The grocery store immediately removed the items in question, and has taken appropriate measures to ensure the health of store patrons."
The post added, "We have learned that this appears to be a disturbing trend on social media across the country, and we ask for help from parents to discourage this behavior immediately."
This article has been updated.