A grocery store in northeastern Pennsylvania says it was forced to throw away over $35,000 worth of food out of concern over the coronavirus pandemic after a woman deliberately coughed over it.
The co-owner of Gerrity's Supermarket, Joe Fasula, said the woman purposefully coughed on food in several sections of the store, including the produce area, bakery section and meat case, according to The Washington Post.
Employees escorted the woman out of the store and alerted the police, and a health inspector was contacted for further inspections. Fasula said the woman is not known to be infected with COVID-19 but will likely receive testing by local authorities.
The incident resulted in over $35,000 in groceries being thrown away, Fasula said in a message to customers posted on social media.
"Today was a very challenging day," Fasula wrote in the post. "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 posted pictures of supermarket employees wheeling away carts full of fresh produce and meats that were thrown away out of concern of contamination.
"We are doing our best to provide everyone a safe environment & the items they need during this time, including our seniors & those who are immunocompromised when there is already panic w/ supply & hoarding. To have to waste food due to this breaks our hearts," Fasula tweeted.
Grocery stores have been among the businesses most strained by the pandemic, as demand for essential food and supplies skyrockets amid the growing infection rate in the country.
Other markets have reported similar incidents. In one Virginia grocery store, teenagers were found filming videos of themselves coughing on items in the produce section.
Police issued a statement, calling for parents and guardians to monitor and condemn unruly and irresponsible behavior.
"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," Purcellville, Va., police wrote. "Please talk with your children and explain to them why such behavior is wrong, especially given the current situation regarding the spread of Coronavirus."