Complaints have flooded into health officials about 270 Montgomery County business sites allegedly flouting a state order issued last week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Health inspectors began visiting sites Monday that received complaints from employees or patrons, Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper said.
“If needed, law enforcement will be accompanying our employees as they do these investigations and inspections,” Cooper said. “We are at a point where we know we are going to continue to see a surge in cases. It is vital that we are complying with the director’s order regarding stay at home and what is and what is not an essential business.”
The state health department order issued last week told people to stay at home and allowed only essential businesses to remain open only if they follow certain rules that keep employees six feet apart; provide workers with protective supplies such as soap and water; and send home sick workers.
The Dayton Daily News has filed a public records request for the complaints. The county is working with the prosecutor’s office on reviewing that request.
Gary Weaver said he lodged a complaint with the health department about a Dayton store where he works as a cashier.
“It’s called an essential business, and certainly could be,” Weaver said. “But we are not supplied with anything we need to properly prepare the store … to ensure the safety of its employees or customers.”
The state order calls for frequent and enhanced environmental cleaning of commonly touched surfaces such as workstations, counter tops, railings, door handles and door knobs.
“One look at the store at any time of day and you’ll notice the store is not complying — not attempting to comply — with any COVID-19 guidelines,” Weaver said. “It’s shockingly bad.”
Complaints have also come in about restaurants, manufacturers and big-box stores, according to Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County.
Cooper said businesses subject to the complaints have been ordered to submit information proving they are in compliance with the state order. In letters dated Monday, the businesses were told they had until the close of business today to respond.
“The only means that we have to readily assure that we can quickly get to all of these businesses is an order to comply,” Cooper said.
The health department asked businesses to submit:
• Justification that the business meets the definition of essential businesses and operations.
• The measures the business has implemented to meet social distancing requirements.
• Documentation that the above items have been communicated to all employees.
• Documentation that the business is following a seven-point checklist of actions the state proscribed to mitigate workplace spread of coronavirus.
Public Health has divided the county into quadrants and inspectors continued visiting the locations on Tuesday, Cooper said.
The inspectors will be carrying appropriate identification, as well wearing Public Health emergency response vests, he said.
Cooper said he’s hopeful a majority of the locations will be found in compliance once inspectors arrive.
“In the event that there’s steadfast refusal to comply with the order, then we would go through our standard administrative process that would be engaging the county prosecutor’s office and looking for some type of injunctive relief through the court system,” he said.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said shoppers at businesses also need to be responsible.
“We know that physical distancing works … it saves lives,” she said. “As you are going to these facilities to purchase items, please do your part. Keep your physical distance.”
Whaley said if you must shop, “do it as little as possible.” But if you go to a store that looks crowded, return when it’s not as busy, she said.
Restaurants offering take-out prompted some early complaints about people congregating too close together on patios and in parking lots, said Dan Suffoletto, a county public health spokesman.
On Monday, the state relaxed some rules, allowing golf courses to reopen, certain lawn care businesses to mow and landscaping companies to resume commercial projects, but Cooper said everyone needs to continue following the order.
“We are at a critical juncture here. This is no time to take this lightly,” Cooper said. “The virus is spreading rapidly and individuals we all care about are going to be infected.”
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