EDITOR’S NOTE: To see a version of this story without the paywall, click on the “Coronavirus” tab in the middle of the home page. To keep the community informed, we’ve lifted the paywall on all stories about the coronavirus.
By LOU WILIN
Hancock Public Health gets about 90 complaints per week on average concerning businesses not complying with state guidelines on COVID-19 safety.
Taking complaints and following up on them with communications or investigations consumes an average of about 140 hours per week for public health staffers, according to department records. The health department for Findlay and Hancock County spent 914 hours taking and responding to COVID-compliance complaints from April 1 to May 15. Those hours were spread among five full-time staffers of the department, said Lindsay Summit, director of Environmental Health.
Ninety-five percent of the 617 complaints came from customers or employees against businesses, Summit said. The targets of the complaints have been “everything from manufacturing to restaurants, garage sales, weddings,” Summit said.
Most of those complaints have been about failures to require employees to wear masks or gloves, or to observe social distancing, she said.
Five percent of the complaints to health officials came from businesses inquiring when they could reopen, she said.
The flow, or numbers, of complaints has been steady throughout the period, Summit said.
Fortunately, once notified of a complaint or concern, businesses have complied with the state’s guidelines.
“So far, we’ve had respectful conversations,” Summit said.
“We try to give them as much information as possible” about the complaint and about state guidelines, she said.
Local health officials have not yet had to resort to enforcement measures. But if it would take something more than a friendly conversation to get a business to comply with state guidance, public health officials have additional tools. Restaurants, for example, could have their food service license pulled, Summit said.
“If it’s somebody else, we could work with (the) local prosecutor’s office and file charges that are spelled out in the (state’s) stay-at-home orders,” she said.
Putnam County public health officials receive “multiple calls a day” from people concerned or complaining about employees at businesses not wearing masks, said Kim Rieman, Putnam County health commissioner.
“We do not have any investigations going on at this time. We have received a couple concerns about businesses not having their employees wear masks,” she said. “We’re actually working through the process of how we’re going to investigate and then enforce these issues.”
“We’re kind of in the beginning stages,” Rieman said. “We’re focusing first on education and getting information out to those facilities.”
Wilin: 419-427-8413 Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin