Amid struggles to keep up with orders and supplying the basics, a small family-owned grocery store chain in Pennsylvania has yet another reason to be overwhelmed: a customer purposely coughing all over its produce, meat and bakery sections.
Co-owner Joe Fasula said in a Facebook post Wednesday that a woman who came into a store in the afternoon had deliberately coughed on food items, prompting the store to dispose of more than $35,000 worth of food. Although the woman isn’t known to have contracted the coronavirus, Fasula also mentioned in his post that police plan on testing her to be sure, and that the case has escalated to the District Attorney’s office.
In his Facebook post, Fasula recalled the manager at the chain’s Hanover Township store calling him about the customer who pulled a “very twisted prank” by coughing on groceries. He added that after police escorted the customer out, the store had no choice but to throw out the products she came in contact with, because it’s not worth taking chances with the health and well-being of customers.
Writing that he is “absolutely sick” to his stomach about the loss of food, Fasula also noted in the post that the chain estimates the loss of groceries to cost at least $35,000 total and that it is unsure if its insurance company will cover the cost.
Today was a very challenging day. At 2:20 PM today, I got a call from our Hanover Township store. The manager informed…
Similarly, in response to a customer’s tweet shortly after the incident Wednesday afternoon, Gerrity’s Supermarkets tweeted that the situation “truly saddens us” and that the grocery chain is doing its best to provide a safe environment and necessary items in a time when there is already “panic with supply and hoarding.”
“To have to waste food due to this breaks our hearts!” Gerrity’s Supermarkets tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Last week, Fasula told WNEP that the nonstop work at all Gerrity’s Supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic has been a “tremendous drain” and that employees — who he said are working “at least six days a week and 8,9,10 hours a day” — are exhausted.
“I tell all of our employees that we are on the front lines,” Fasula told WNEP. “We are the ones that are going to hold our country together. I don’t mean just my store. Grocery workers in general and health-care workers.”
On Tuesday, the Justice Department wrote in a memo to federal prosecutors that people who purposely attempt to spread the coronavirus, whether or not they contracted it, could be charged as terrorists.
The Hanover Township location of Gerrity’s Supermarket isn’t the only grocery store affected by a coughing stunt amid coronavirus spreading fears. The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday that a man, who claimed that he has the coronavirus, had intentionally coughed on a Wegmans store employee in Manalapan. The man has been charged with harassment, obstructing law enforcement and making terroristic threats.
TPM reached out to Gerrity’s Supermarkets for additional comment. We will update this post if we hear back.
h/t Washington Post