OTTAWA — While some social media sites hinted that a few businesses in Northwest Ohio failed to strictly follow state health orders governing crowd size and social distancing upon reopening their doors over the past week, local health and law enforcement officials are hopeful that voluntary compliance will be the rule rather than the exception.
Joan Kline, public information officer with the Putnam County Health Department, said “a couple of complaints were received about too many people gathering at a local bar” over the weekend. She said efforts will be made to reach out to the establishment’s owner as quickly as possible to reinforce the importance of social distancing during the novel coronavirus.
Kline said health officials are also encouraged by an announcement Monday from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine that help could be coming from the state in enforcing compliance with state health mandates.
DeWine said local law enforcement, coordinated with the Department of Public Safety’s Ohio Investigative Unit, will begin doing safety compliance checks in crowded areas. They can issue administration citations, which could result in the revocation of liquor licenses.
Auglaize County Health Commissioner Oliver Fisher said the few complaints received by his office have had a different focus.
“I can’t say specifically, without talking to my staff, but I haven’t heard of a lot complaints being filed with our office,” Fisher said Monday. The majority of calls received by the office, he said, involved face coverings not being worn by employees at Auglaize County businesses. Those complaints are being addressed under the constraints of a small staff at the department.
“We’re trying to make in-person visits to those businesses we have licensed through our food inspections to remind them of what’s required, and to other businesses we have sent notifications by email or through a phone call to let them know there’s been a complaint,” Fisher said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure everyone is complying.”
Officials at the Allen County Health Department were unavailable for comment Monday.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said Monday he was not made aware of any complaints received by his department regarding crowd sizes in violation of social distancing mandates. He reaffirmed the department’s current directive that no arrests will be made for failure to follow such state health orders.
“For complaints involving business, we will refer those to the health department. If we see people not obeying social distancing guidelines at a park or some other public setting we will talk to those people. If they become confrontational or refuse to comply we will forward a report to the prosecutor’s office,” the chief said.
Victoria Gonzales, public information officer for the Allen County Sheriff’s Department, said there were no calls to that office reporting violations over the weekend.
“From what I saw personally on some of the Facebook sites I follow, it seems as though businesses did a pretty good job of controlling crowd sizes” in their respective establishments, Gonzales said.