California Woman Arrested After Allegedly Licking, Contaminating Supermarket Items Worth $1,800

A 53-year-old California woman was arrested this week after being accused of contaminating a cart full of items worth around $2,000 while inside a South Lake Tahoe supermarket.

Jennifer Gloria Walker, a resident of the city, was detained by officers from the local police department on Tuesday afternoon after being accused of licking groceries in the Safeway on Johnson Lane. It comes as U.S. citizens are being urged to practice proper hygiene during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Officers who arrived at the scene found the suspect still in the store with a shopping cart full of items. The investigation found the woman had no means of paying for them.

The merchandise, which included jewelry, was found to have a rough value of $1,800, according to a release published yesterday by city officials, which included Walker's mugshot.

An employee at the Safeway told officers that the woman put "numerous pieces" of the jewelry on her hands before licking them and then placing more merchandise from the store into her cart.

"The employee informed the officers that all the items in the suspect's shopping cart were deemed unsellable due to the cross-contamination," South Lake Tahoe city officials said.

Walker was arrested on a felony charge of "vandalism of more than $400" and booked into the El Dorado County jail, where she remains in custody, according to the inmate records. The South Lake Tahoe police department, which has been contacted for additional comment, did not suggest a specific motive.

The charge of vandalism over $400 carries potential sentences of up to one year in jail and/or up to $50,000 in fines.

The suspect's bail was set at $10,000, inmate records showed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads person-to-person but can also linger on surfaces or objects.

"The CDC recommends people practice frequent hand hygiene, which is either washing hands with soap or water or using an alcohol-based hand rub," the U.S. health agency explains online.

But there have been numerous cases of coronavirus-linked retail incidents in recent weeks across the world. In Australia last week, a man was arrested after being accused of intentionally coughing on packets of noodles after being told by staff there was a limit on how many he could purchase.

In Missouri, a 26-year-old man was taken into custody after filming himself wiping his tongue on a row of deodorants in a Walmart store, before posting the footage to social media. And in Florida, a man sprayed a substance on a business door and claimed that it contained the coronavirus.

The BBC reported today police in the town of Morecambe, England, had arrested two men who were caught on a shop CCTV licking their hands and wiping them on vegetables and fridge handles.

 Jennifer Walker
Officers located the suspect, Jennifer Walker, 53, inside of the Safeway store with a shopping cart full of merchandise. City of South Lake Tahoe

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.