Along with every crisis there are those who look to exploit the general panic that comes with it. From fake cures and tests to hoarding and price-gouging, law enforcement have seen any number of reprehensible actions taken by individuals across the country. See Department of Justice memo available on Politico, which you can find here:https://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000171-128a-d911-aff1-becb9b530000. One particularly abhorrent action is intentionally exposing others to COVID-19. According to US Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, “corona virus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ under 18 U.S.C. § 178(1),” and acts of intentional exposure “potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.
There have already been reported instances of intentional contamination, or at least apparent intentional contamination. In Pennsylvania, a woman walked into a local grocery store and intentionally coughed on the produce, meat, and bakery sections of the store. The woman was not known to be infected, but law enforcement plans to test her just to be sure. Meanwhile, the grocery store is taking no chances—it discarded $35,000 worth of food items due to this one person’s actions. You can read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/26/coughing-grocery-store-coronavirus/. Kudos to that Pennsylvania grocery store for taking its customers’ safety so seriously.
There have been at least two other intentional exposure or apparent intentional exposure on the East coast: A New Jersey man intentionally coughed on a Wegman’s supermarket employee and then claimed he was infected with COVID-19. In another area of Pennsylvania, a man mocked a senior, who was recovering from pneumonia, for wearing gloves and a mask while shopping for groceries at a Karns Foods store. He then deliberately coughed near the man and told him that he had coronavirus.
While actions such as these are the exception and not the rule, for now, grocery stores should be particularly vigilant in monitoring customers’ conduct while in their stores. For consumers, disinfecting your groceries as soon as you bring them home and then washing your hands with warm soapy water can help prevent spread of the virus.