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Two men walked into a Walmart in Joliet, Illinois, and proclaimed that they had coronavirus in what appears to be yet another publicity stunt involving the deadly disease.
Carrying a sign that read, “I have the coronavirus,” the two suspects began to spray Lysol, covering merchandise and upsetting customers.
Joliet police released a statement to the press confirming the incident took place on Sunday, Feb. 2. The two men in question destroyed an estimated US$7,300 worth of produce and Walmart had to pay out an additional US$2,400 to clean up after them.
“He was telling everyone the same thing, that he was protecting them from the virus,” witness Tony Prokes told ABC 7. “It’s not really good to be pranking people that way. People will be scared.”
One of the two suspects put on a yellow surgical mask and had a sign taped to his back that read: “Caution: I have the coronavirus,” and was spraying Lysol, a common household disinfectant, although the other people in Walmart did not know that at the time. Neither of the two suspects were infected with the coronavirus.
Walmart security footage managed to capture photos of the two men who have been identified as white men in their 20s by Joliet police.
“How stupid,” one user wrote in response to the police statement on Facebook.
“This may have been a prank in their minds but … telling people they are dispersing a weaponize virus with their signs and actions is an act of instilling terror,” another person said.
Such an incident is not isolated, in fact there appears to be a surge in coronavirus-related pranks due to the fear surrounding the disease that originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019. Earlier this week a Toronto man had a plane flight cancelled midflight when he falsely claimed to have the coronavirus.
Coronavirus has killed more than 500 people and infected thousands more. Several countries outside China, including Canada and the United States have reported cases of the virus.
The outbreak has been met with jokes and internet memes making light of the situation such as a Toronto man’s attempt to go viral on a flight from Canada to Jamaica. He was hoping to promote his new music video by filming himself claiming that he had the virus, prompting the flight to turn around.
“I was looking to get a viral video,” said James Potok. “It seemed to me like this was in poor taste, in retrospect.” Potok was charged with mischief and breach of recognizance.
Joliet Police have yet to announce if any charges have been laid in the Walmart case however they’re expected to face felony charges according to ABC 7 News.