More than $35,000 of groceries tossed after woman allegedly coughed on them, saying she had coronavirus

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WNEP/CNN) - A 35-year-old Pennsylvania woman is facing multiple charges after police said she purposely coughed on food at a grocery store.

Employees had to sanitize everything and throw away thousands of dollars worth of food.

“Your bail is $50,000 straight. This is a copy of your criminal complaint, arrest warrant affidavit,” District Judge Joseph Halesey told Margaret Cirko, inside a police vehicle.

Police said Cirko went into Gerrity’s Supermarket on Wednesday afternoon and deliberately and violently coughed and spit on food throughout the store before trying to steal a case of beer.

Employees of the store attempted to stop her while she continued to cough and spit on produce and meat, but she kept yelling, “I have the virus. You’re all going to get sick.”

Gerrity’s supermarket worked with the Hanover Township Health Department and determined everything she came into contact with had to be thrown away.

“My first thought went to the fact that we’re just going to have to throw out all this food," said Joe Fasula, supermarket co-owner. "It’s so hard to get right now. I mean, produce hasn’t been too bad, but the price of produce is going up quite a bit. And when it comes to all the different grocery items, it’s so hard. So right now it’s the worst time in the world to be throwing food away.”

Gerrity’s posted photos on Facebook of just some of the more than $35,000 loss, including organic produce, bakery items and meats as well as employees sanitizing the shelves afterwards.

“Our crew came in around 4 o’clock this morning. They have all worked so hard and they’ve been here ever since. They’re almost done now. Everything was totally clean, totally disinfected. Everything’s very safe,” Fasula said.

Less than 24 hours later, the shelves have been restocked inside Gerrity’s, and the co-owner said that’s thanks to support from his suppliers of this store. But he’s also received a lot of support from the community and around the world.

“It just took on a life all its own," Fasula said. "And we’ve gotten contacted by a newspaper in London. People have called from Germany asking if they could help. A lady asked if she could buy gift cards from us from, from Georgia. It’s amazing.”

Fasula says what is also amazing is the dedication of his employees, especially when an already hard time was made worse.

“I spend most of my time walking around, yelling at them to go home, just to get them some time off," he said. "But as soon as this happened yesterday, they all jumped in. They did everything they possibly could to get the product out and then get the case emptied, get the case cleaned, and then cleaned up and sanitized.”

Authorities said they don’t believe Cirko actually has COVID-19. She was tested anyway and also underwent a mental evaluation.

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