Complaints top 2,500 in El Paso County for violating COVID-19 rules

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El Paso County Public Health had received 2,564 inquiries through April 27 regarding the “stay-home” or “safer-at-home” rules that the state has provided in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The protocol followed by Public Health when a complaint is received:

• Document if multiple complaints have been received on that business
• Provide education to the facility as to where they fall in the Public Health Order and what actions they need to take to be in compliance
• If there are continued complaints after multiple efforts to educate, then a site visit will be conducted and a Notice of Determination may be issued if compliance isn’t met.
• If facility continues to disregard the Notice of Determination, then a Cease and Desist may be issued.

There won’t be any patrolling of city’s streets, sidewalks and stores to spot violations. Rather, as reports Public Health spokesperson Michelle Hewitts, the agency will be operating primarily on a complaint basis.

“We anticipate that most enforcement concerns will relate to businesses operating that should be closed, and business compliance with social distancing and other required precautions,” she says via email. “We are instructing critical businesses to use their gloves first for the things they have to use it for (ex: food handling, direct contact with public for personal services) and that they would only be using gloves for other tasks if their supply allows them to” under public health orders.

For example, Public Health Order 20-26 for retail food establishments says:

Workers who prepare or handle food that will be made available to the public for purchase, such as restaurant or grocery store workers, must wear a face covering while performing tasks involving food preparation and handling.

Employees in food and child care industries shall minimally utilize disposable gloves as normally required by their governing regulations. Staff should continue to use gloves as required by the Food Code.

Other data points through April 27:

Facilities contacted regarding complaints received: 276.

Facilities assigned a complaint number: 103

Complaints escalated to a manager: 20

Those who voluntarily complied after a manager contacted them: 11

Notifications of Determination issued: 5

Those who complied after an NoD was issued: 2

Compliance pending follow up: 6

Asked to explain the “compliance pending” category, Hewitt says:

Ultimately, if a facility is pending compliance, Public Health is in the process of working through clarifications to determine business operations within the context of the order. Otherwise, there are facilities that Public Health is allowing time to come into compliance with the guidance and education that has been provided from Public Health. There are a few instances where Public Health is continuing to work with the facility on an operation plan that is within the context of the order. To that end, just because Public Health has provided a piece of paper doesn’t mean that they are automatically in compliance.