Cops: Stop dumping gloves, masks on street; they're COVID hazards

Gross. (FOX 5 NY)

Authorities in the New York area are warning you to pick up after yourself when you take off rubber gloves, masks, and other so-called personal protective equipment during this new normal we're living in created by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Do your part to keep your city healthy, safe and clean!" New York City's Sanitation Department tweeted on April 10, adding that you should not leave gloves or masks on sidewalks, streets, or even on top of trash bags left curbside for pickup.

New Yorkers are used to seeing a certain amount of litter, discarded household items and, of course, pet waste on the streets.

"It reminds me of seeing dog droppings inside of bags: you did half of the task, why not finish?' Justin Gerald, 33, an educator from Long Island City, said on Friday.

And many report seeing a lot of medical debris in recent weeks. Caitlin Harley, 32, originally from Long Island, said she started noticing those brightly colored nitrile gloves dotting sidewalks in Astoria, Queens, where she now lives, about three weeks ago.

"At first I thought the gloves were probably always there but I was just noticing it more now. As the weeks went on it became more apparent that I was not imagining it," Harley, who works in the alcoholic beverage industry, told FOX 5 NY. "In my three-block walk to the grocery store one morning, I counted 33 discarded gloves."


Several police departments in New York and New Jersey want folks to knock it off because the litter isn't just unsightly—it could increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

"Covid-19 can linger on items like used masks and gloves and lead to the exposure of the person who may pick them up," the Rome Police Department, in central New York, posted on Facebook. "Please throw these items in the trash. Failure to do so can result in a violation of Rome City Code for littering and be subject to a fine of up to $500.00." 

Back on March 31, police in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, said this was already a problem. Cops said they'd received a lot of complaints about the "disturbing amount of litter, particularly used latex gloves," left in parking lots.

"Improper disposal of gloves will only cause this virus to spread further," Lyndhurst Police said on Facebook. "Someone else will be cleaning up your mess and possibly spreading the virus."


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Police in Haledon, New Jersey, had a similar plea, warning that litterbugs would be cited and "prosecuted accordingly."

"The community is urged to properly dispose their gloves, masks, or any other personal protective equipment," Haledon PD said. "Regardless, someone still has to pick them up and be exposed to unwanted germs."

Although most authorities now urge you to cover your face in public, they haven't issued directives about gloves. Many people seem to be wearing them although, for what it's worth, some infectious disease experts say you may risk exposure to viruses if you don't put on, take off, and dispose of the gloves the right way.

Regardless, tossing those used gloves in a trash can rather than on the sidewalk seems, at minimum, the responsible thing to do. And not doing so is inconsiderate.

"I find myself zigzagging on the sidewalk to avoid stepping on gloves and masks," Harley, of Astoria, said. "Everyone needs to take responsibility for themselves and dispose of gloves in a safe manner!"