2 men charged, accused of intentionally coughing to threaten spread of coronavirus

Crime

PUTNAM, Conn. (WTNH) — A Putnam man is locked up after Connecticut State Police say he coughed in a trooper’s face in an attempt to infect him with COVID-19.

In his mug shot, 52-year-old James Keith has a surgical mask half-dangling off his face. It was put there by EMTs after police say Keith “aggressively coughed” in the face of a member of Troop D, then allegedly told the trooper “now you’re infected” with coronavirus.

The trooper was in the process of arresting Keith for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and driving under the influence.

“Stating that you have the COVID-19 virus will not get you out of an arrest,” said State Police spokesperson Josue Dorelus.

Dorelus says the man was tested for the virus, and preliminary results came back negative.

“The trooper himself and other individuals on scene were decontaminated to prevent the further spread of any potential virus,” said Trooper Dorelus.

It happened around 7:12 p.m. Thursday.

Related: UConn Health doctor charged, accused of intentionally coughing on medical employees during coronavirus outbreak

Earlier that day, in an unrelated case, UConn police arrested Dr. Cory Edgar for allegedly intentionally coughing on two other medical workers at the Health Center. Witnesses told police that Edgar, who is a team doctor for the UConn Huskies and the Coast Guard Academy, “was purposefully disregarding space and safety concerns,” involving the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Edgar was issued a misdemeanor summons for breach of peace. He told UConn officials he does not have COVID-19. The Health System is still investigating.

Meanwhile, State Police say weaponizing coronavirus during a time of extreme anxiety and uncertainty will not be tolerated.

“The actions are extremely reckless. We’re dealing with a virus that is unprecedented and there’s a lot of unknown dealing with the virus itself,” said Trooper Dorelus.

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