One woman, Margaret Cirko, intentionally coughed on $35,000 worth of food at a Pennsylvania grocery store on Wednesday, March 25. She’s facing criminal charges for purposely coughing, which is one of the ways Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads. The incident opens up discussion for emerging coronavirus crimes.
Cirko entered Gerrity’s Supermarket, a small grocery chain, in Hanover Township and purposely coughed on products, including produce, bakery items and meat. Staff removed her from the store and called police upon noticing her actions.
Together with the Hanover Township health inspector, workers identified and threw out an estimated $35,000 worth of product. CNN reports that officials don’t believe she was infected with Coronavirus, but will make sure she is tested as soon as possible.
In a statement posted to the Facebook page for Gerrity’s Supermarket, co-owner Joe Fasula wrote, “While there is little doubt that 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 Beginning of Coronavirus Crime Charges?
In a press release, the Hanover Township Police Department identified the criminal charges Cirko is facing. She is charged with 2 Felony counts of Terrorist Threats, 1 Felony count of Threats to use a”Biological agent”, and 1 Felony count of Criminal Mischief. She was also charged with Misdemeanor counts of Criminal Attempt to commit Retail Theft and Disorderly Conduct.
“Purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19″ could be considered an act of terrorism according to a memo released by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen from the Department of Justice (DOJ) this week. COVID-19 meets the definition of a “biological agent.”
The memo reads, “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”
The severity of the charges is an effort to stop future incidents like this from occurring. Within the past week, people have been intentionally coughing on grocery store items and other people, claiming to have coronavirus. One New Jersey man, George Falcone (pictured above), purposely coughed on a store employee while claiming to have coronavirus. In the same week, a group of teens intentionally coughed on grocery store produce in order to record videos for an internet prank.
Attorney General William Barr stated on the DOJ Facebook page, “As we face the nationwide spread of #COVID19, I want to emphasize that the critical mission of the DOJ must and will continue… The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”