Colorado Man Coughed on Groceries, Ranted about 'Media Hype' After Being Asked to Maintain Social Distancing, Police Say

A 51-year-old man who was accused of intentionally coughing on groceries in violation of a public health order was identified during a public appeal this week, Colorado police say.

Nathan R. Herries, of Vail, was flagged to Eagle County law enforcement via an anonymous tip and cited within hours of his photo being published and shared across social media, deputies said. He was wanted in relation to an incident that recently took place at a Village Market store in the small community of Edwards.

According to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Herries was cited in lieu of arrest for the suspected violation of a public health order, disorderly conduct and second degree tampering.

Investigators have alleged that the suspect refused to comply with the county's social distancing rules, which are being enforced due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.

They alleged that Herries would not listen when urged to stay at least six feet away from customers and staff. When asked to step back by one Village Market worker the man allegedly "went on a rant of how the employee was falling for the media hype," the Eagle County Sheriff's Office said.

Police investigators alleged the 51-year-old suspect "then got between a customer and an employee and purposely coughed on the products that the other customer was purchasing."

It was not immediately clear exactly what items were potentially contaminated during the incident. Police stressed his alleged actions were in "direct violation" of state and county health advisories, which are designed to help limit the spread of the infectious respiratory disease COVID-19.

News of the citation was released on Facebook and reported by media outlet CBS4. "Suspect has been located and cited!! THANKS to the community for your help!!" deputies wrote yesterday.

Media Release - 04.20.20 - Help to Identify Male Suspects of Interest in Photos - https://t.co/wSZQr1Bgd2 pic.twitter.com/CrM3ulu98b

— Eagle County Sheriff's Office (@EagleCountySO) April 20, 2020

An updated public health order for Eagle County, issued on April 6, said all essential employers in the region had to ensure that social distancing measures were put in place by 5 p.m. on April 9. A local disaster emergency due to the viral outbreak was first declared on March 6.

"The age, condition, and health of a significant portion of the population in Eagle County places it at risk of serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19," officials warned.

Health data suggests there have been at least 10,106 cases and 449 deaths tied to novel coronavirus in Colorado as of 4 p.m. yesterday, when statistics are being updated daily.

Earlier this month, a woman was arrested in California after contaminating a cart of supermarket items worth $1,800 by allegedly licking some of the merchandise. A man in Australia was detained this month after allegedly coughing on packets of noodles when he was told about purchase limits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that COVID-19, an illness that is caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads person-to-person but can also remain on surfaces. All citizens are urged to maintain high standards of personal hygiene during the health crisis.

There have been at least 787,900 positive infections of the disease in the U.S.—the most reported cases by country in the world. The coronavirus-linked illness is believed to have caused at least 42,300 deaths, with New York emerging as a hotspot according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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.
Nathan R. Herries
Suspect Nathan R. Herries, of Vail, was flagged to law enforcement via an anonymous tip and cited within hours of his photo being published and shared on social media, officials said. Eagle County Sheriff's Office