Virginia teens investigated for coughing on produce, customers and posting videos online in ‘disturbing trend’

The two juveniles questioned admitted to their involvement and police determined that there was no criminal intent. They also appreciated the "store’s swift action" in reporting and removing the items

                            Virginia teens investigated for coughing on produce, customers and posting videos online in ‘disturbing trend’
(Getty Images)

Displaying a "sick" sense of humor, a group of teenagers filmed themselves coughing on fresh produce and patrons in a Virginia grocery store, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is spread through droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze and expose other people to it. The store employees were vigilant enough to report the incident to the local police in Purcellville, VA.

The Purcellville police department released an update on March 20 saying that: "after a thorough investigation, the Purcellville Police Department identified the juveniles involved, notified their parents, and subsequently interviewed the subjects. The two juveniles questioned admitted to their involvement, and it was determined that there was no criminal intent."

The statement added that "the investigation concluded the teenagers were getting close to other patrons and coughing into their own sleeves while filming it on their phones. After viewing the video footage, officers determined no actual customers or produce were spit or coughed on directly... Due to the age of the minors involved, no names or video footage will be released."

The police appreciated the "store’s swift action" in reporting the incident to police and removing any items in question to ensure the health of the store patrons and employees.

The teens had posted their coughing videos to social media, because it was part of a "disturbing trend" online, according to the police. “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,” said the Purcellville police in a Facebook post on March 19. They also said in the post that the grocery store "immediately removed the items in question". 

Appealing to parents to better monitor their teenagers' juvenile but deadly activities, the post said: "We are asking for parental assistance in monitoring your teenagers’ activities, as well as their social media posts to avoid the increase of any further such incidents... Please talk with your children and explain to them why such behavior is wrong, especially given the current situation regarding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)."

The post also reminded the "parents and children of the Town of Purcellville’s curfew, which states it is unlawful for any minor under the age of 18 years to loiter or remain on any street, park or public place in the town between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and daylight of the following day unless accompanied by a parent or guardian".

Schools in the region are closed from March 16 to March 27 after Governor Ralph Northam ordered all K-12 schools in Virginia to close for a minimum of two weeks in response to the continued spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 on March 13 amid reports that COVID-19 could be fought, in part, through social distancing, contact tracing, and widespread testing.

“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” Governor Northam said while passing the order to close schools. “I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus."

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