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New Haven's Health Department Makes Surprise Business Inspections

Since last Thursday, New Haven's Health Department Task Force has made 88 unannounced visits to ensure mask mandate compliance.

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Making random visits to city businesses Tuesday, New Haven city officials were making sure mask mandate rules were being followed. Since August 9, masks have been required at all New haven’s indoor spaces.

Joined by New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Health Director Maritza Bond, the task force went door to door Tuesday on Orange, Chapel, Crown, and State streets.

“The goal is to make sure everyone’s being compliant. That everyone is keeping each other safe and everyone is wearing their masks,” said Elicker.

To enforce the mask mandate, the city has a three-tiered approach that escalates from verbal warning, to $100 fine, to complete shutdown after a third infraction. Last week the task force visited 75 outlets and found four first time offenses.

“To have only four verbal warnings is actually really good news for us because we know the majority of businesses are complying,” said Bond.

Today, 13 more businesses were approached, and all passed. Elicker says these searches are important as the city saw about 200 COVID-19 cases per week in the month of August.

“We’re seeing 20 times the number of COVID-19 cases this year at this time compared to the same time last year,” added Elicker.

Now, nearly a month in some residents say the reinstated mask mandate makes them feel safe.

“We don’t know who has it and who doesn’t have the shots so, we’re taking care of ourselves and the other people too,” said New Haven resident Carlis Highsmith.

As for the random inspections, businesses who spoke with NBC Connecticut say they understand the approach.

“I wish we didn’t have to do that. I wished that everybody was doing as they were supposed to do,” said Enson’s Menswear manager Nick Civitello.

Rainbow Shop clothing manager Nyree Stevenson agrees.

“I think it’s good that they’re keeping people on their toes because it’s really important,” she said.

So far, New Haven’s random inspections are going smoother than last year. Officials say inspections during the previous mask mandate led to 13 businesses being shut down.

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