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Crowds, Hand Sanitizer Among COVID-19 Concerns in New Haven App

NBC Universal, Inc.

New Haven’s Downtown district has the greatest decrease in crime since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also the district with the most COVID-19 reports through the See Click Fix app.

The city launched the “Spread the Facts Not the Virus” campaign in April, which included opening a COVID-19 section in the app. Since then, New Haven residents have sent in questions or concerns to the city right from their phones.

“The See Click Fix complaint portal has been effective,” said New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond. “We’ve been monitoring that through our team and then diverting it to the respective individual that needs to respond.”

There have been 180 reports filed, 79 are submitted under “COVID-19 Concerns.” Those are people looking for testing sites, food pantries and other resources. One report pointed to empty hand sanitizer on the Green.

“That’s been a useful resource so our hotline could be freed up for people who are symptomatic,” said Bond.

The city’s COVID-19 hotline is 203-946-4949. Through there, people who are showing symptoms can get help quickly, while other departments are able to respond to community concerns.

The New Haven Police Department handles the second biggest issue: crowds. There are 53 reports for people gathering outside businesses and in parks. Several reports mentioned the Edgewood Skate Park, and the people who once played sports there.

Chief Otoniel Reyes said they have the right to enforce social distance orders, but they’re taking another approach.

“We’re trying to send the message in a positive way and not criminalize this but at the end of the day, these are governmental orders and this is a public safety concern,” said Reyes. “But our message is that, listen we’re in this together. The police department is here to help keep people safe, we’re looking to do that in a way that’s not escalated.”

There are 48 business complaints, four of them are for establishments people say should be closed. The other complaints are for social distance or mask issues. Bond said the Health Department follows up on these calls, and they try to work positively on those businesses' concerns as well.

“We’re very intentional to not make this feel like policing,” said Mayor Justin Elicker. “Because we want people to comply, we don’t want people to feel like this is some sort of police state. It’s the opposite.”

They said events like handing out masks to people and businesses help cut down those complaints and builds relationships to show we’re all in this together.

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