A maskless customer at a Wawa store in New Jersey, where masks are required in public under a state executive order amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was arrested after slapping an employee in the face when she was told to leave the shop for not wearing a mask.
Police were called to the store, located at 299 Mountain Road in Hackettstown, at 12:24 a.m. local time on October 3 after Ashanty Niang, a 23-year-old from the New York City borough of Bronx, assaulted the employee, according to the Hackettstown Police Department.
Niang was not wearing a face covering inside the store and an employee asked Niang to cover her face, according to police.
Niang allegedly used her jacket to cover her mouth but later removed the jacket from her face, uncovering her mouth. Niang then allegedly slapped the employee after she was asked to leave the store, according to police.
Niang was charged with violating an executive order, simple assault and disorderly conduct, according to a statement by the police.
She also has a pending court appearance, police noted.
Newsweek has contacted Wawa for comment.
The executive order issued by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy requires “face coverings in indoor spaces that are accessible to members of the public, such as retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses, areas of government buildings open to the public, and mass transit buses, trains, and stations, again with exceptions for health reasons and children under two,” the governor’s office noted in a statement in July.
Face coverings are also required in “outdoor public spaces when it is not practicable to socially distance and keep a six-foot distance from others,” the statement noted.
The latest incident comes as confirmed cases in New Jersey approach nearly 210,000, according to the latest report Thursday by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
Average daily new infections in New Jersey were reported to have increased in a recent two-week period from September 24 to October 7, according to data compiled by JHU.
The average daily case count sharply declined from early April, when it peaked at 3,674 on April 4, and flattened out from mid-June to late September, according to JHU.
Last month, a 52-year-old man was arrested after allegedly assaulting a Walmart employee over a dispute involving face masks in Manitoba, Canada.
Police said the man repeatedly ignored requests by staff to wear a mask. After he was followed by an employee and asked to again wear his mask, the man turned around and pushed the employee and threatened him, according to police. The man was arrested and charged with assault and uttering threats.
Earlier in September, a woman wearing a “Shed the Mask” T-shirt filmed herself crying in a grocery store in Texas after she was refused service for not wearing a mask.
The wider picture
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 36.2 million people across the globe since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 7.5 million in the U.S. Globally, more than a million have died following infection, while more than 25.2 million have reportedly recovered as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The graphic below, produced by Statista, illustrates a survey of U.S. adults concerned about catching COVID-19.
The graphic below, also provided by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.