A girl licked a tongue depressor at a clinic and put it back. Her mother now faces a felony charge.

Updated 7/12/2019 9:53 AM

In the grainy cellphone video, a hand lifts the lid off a clear jar filled with tongue depressors and playfully swirls the light-colored wooden sticks around.

"PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH MEDICAL SUPPLIES! THANK YOU," warns an all-caps notice posted on the wall above the container.


Moments later, another hand pops into view. It belongs to a young girl wearing a baseball cap and a turquoise tank top. She too reaches for the jar, but goes a step further, plucking one of the tongue depressors from the bunch and bringing it to her mouth.

Then, she appears to lick the length of the flat stick before placing it back in with the others. She slaps her now-empty hand against the open mouth of the jar twice before the lid is swiftly replaced.

"Don't tell me how to live my life," text superimposed on the video reads.

But what may have been intended as lighthearted social media content could now have serious consequences for the girl's mother, who reportedly filmed the incident and posted it on Snapchat earlier this week, according to WTLV.

Cori Ward of Jacksonville, Florida, was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of tampering with a consumer product without regard for possible death or bodily injury, according to records from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. The 30-year-old is not eligible for bond and her next court appearance is Friday. It is not clear if Ward has an attorney.

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In an at times emotional interview with WJAX the day before her arrest, the mother of five defended herself against accusations that she filmed the video as part of a recent viral social media challenge that involves people licking ice cream in stores and placing the containers back on the shelves.

"I mean honestly I wasn't thinking," Ward said, later adding tearfully, "I know what it's like to have to worry about your kids' health and stuff. I would never put somebody else's kid at risk."

The video, Ward insisted, shouldn't have been seen by anyone beyond a handful of her Snapchat friends, WTLV reported, citing a post from the mother's now-deleted Facebook account. Ward wrote that she didn't even know there was a "licking challenge."

"I posted this on my personal Snapchat with my 20-something friends, where someone allowed another person to video it," Ward wrote. "I didn't post it on Facebook or YouTube as a challenge or whatever."


The short video also doesn't show that "the items were thrown away" afterward, she wrote.

According to WJAX, the recording of Ward's video was shared to Facebook by someone else and watched more than 60,000 times before it was taken down. In the aftermath of the clip going viral, Ward was vilified and received death threats, WJAX reported.

"It's horrible," she said. "I'm scared for my kids."

In a statement to WJAX, the All About Kids & Families Medical Center, where the incident took place, said they were notified that "a patient had violated our trust with behavior that is inconsistent with the practices and standards that we uphold and expect at our facility." The center did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

"Upon notification of this isolated incident, we contacted law enforcement to request a full and thorough investigation," the center said, noting that they also "immediately removed all materials and containers from the specific exam room and re-sanitized our entire facility."

The statement continued: "Our internal investigation does not reveal any resulting risks or harm to patients from this action."

While saliva has antibodies and enzymes that decrease the chance of passing along infectious organisms to another person, the fluid can contain a number of viruses that cause colds, the flu, mono and strep throat, among other diseases, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

"The risk of saliva transmitting disease is very small," Michael Benninger, a doctor at the clinic, said in a 2016 article. Still, he added, "most people would prefer to choose whom they want to share saliva with."

The trend of people licking things they shouldn't appears to have started late last month with a viral video of a teen in Texas tonguing a half-gallon tub of Blue Bell ice cream at a Walmart, putting it back in the freezer and walking away. The clip drew widespread disgust and even sparked a manhunt to find the teen. When authorities located the teen last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) weighed in, tweeting, "Glad they caught this despicable criminal. Behavior like this is unacceptable in Texas & is rightfully punished. Don't Mess With Texas ... or with Blue Bell."

But like most viral social media content, the video quickly inspired copycats, creating what has now been dubbed the "Ice Cream Challenge."

A Louisiana man was arrested over the weekend after filming himself at a store opening a container of ice cream, licking it and sticking his finger into the dessert before appearing to put the carton back on the shelf, The Washington Post's Alex Horton reported. Lenise Martin III was charged with criminal mischief and unlawful posting of criminal activity for notoriety and publicity, but told The Post that he had purchased the ice cream at the time of the licking and never actually returned it to the store's freezer.

On Wednesday, Ward told WJAX she understood why people were upset by her video and apologized.

"I'm sorry for anyone it's offended," she said through tears. "It should have never been taken this far."

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