Local health districts continue to receive complaints of restaurants and other businesses not following COVID-19 rules.
An executive order signed days before the state's first phase of reopening gives local health departments the regulatory authority to enforce various reopening rules at establishments they already regulate.
Health districts are the enforcing agency for hair salons, barbershops, beauty shops, nail salons, spas, tattoo or piercing establishments, restaurants, eating establishments, private clubs, or any locations licensed for on-premise consumption of alcohol, according to the order.
“We have continued to receive numerous complaints," said Katie Baldwin, supervisor of Regulated Facilities and Housing for Ledge Light Health District. "On a daily average we probably receive five to six complaints."
Baldwin says that the most common complaints for the LLHD, covering the New London region, surround employees and customers not wearing masks and not social distancing.
The health district maintains a COVID-19 complaint log. Complaints on the log include, "overcrowded," "no social distancing," and "no masks."
“If it is the first complaint that we have received for an establishment, we will typically call them and explain the sector rules, what is written and what they should be complying with," said Baldwin. “If we receive an additional complaint, we will visit the establishment.”
Recently, LLHD received a number of complaints about overcrowding at establishments in downtown New London happening after work hours. In response to the complaints, someone from the health district had a schedule change and worked a Saturday night to check out the scene.
"To our surprise, actually, they were all really good at complying with sector rules," said Baldwin.
Baldwin said that they also have two on call staff every weekend for COVID complaints.
In neighboring Uncas Health District, covering the Norwich region, the number of complaints ebb and flow. The complaints mostly surround masks.
“The complaints now are that they are wearing them, but they are pulling them down," explained Patrick McCormack, Director of Health for Uncas Health District.
When the health district receives a complaint about an establishment, they go out and complete a COVID inspection utilizing a special form.
“It allows us to go through the paperwork with them and actually talk to them about each independent rule and what they need to comply with it," said McCormack.
Health districts statewide do have the ability to fine establishments that are not complying with sector rules. Uncas and Ledge Light Health Districts have not fined any establishments at this point. They are focusing on education instead.
“Although it is a good tool to have in our tool box, we have utilized education and our existing enforcement authority to follow up on these complaints," said Baldwin.
"It is really important that we are thoughtful on how we approach the enforcement piece," said McCormack.