NORFOLK, Va. - It has been about a few weeks since Gov. Ralph Northam called for stronger enforcement of COVID-19 business guidelines in Hampton Roads.
"It's just like the signs in so many store windows that say, 'no shirt, no shoes, no service.' Now, it should be, 'no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,'" Northam said in a previous news conference.
News 3 requested data from Virginia Department of Health (VDH) related to enforcement from July 14-27, following Northam’s announcement.
Here’s a breakdown of the information:
Western Tidewater Health District
- 101 food establishment complaints received
- Visited 2 establishments and called 2 establishments to provide education
- Complaints breakdown:
- Suffolk: 59
- Isle of Wight: 19
- Franklin: 3
- Southampton: 1
Portsmouth Health District
- 65 complaints
- Inspections – 26 in-person/21 phone calls
- 23 Violations (in-person inspection only)
- 1 suspension
Chesapeake Health District
- 628 complaints received, including duplicate complaints
- Contacted 107 facilities via phone and/or in-person visits to provide education and offer guideance
- 3 ride alongs conducted with ABC agents
- 2 restaurants suspended
Hampton Health District
- 49 complaints
- 100 inspections
Peninsula Health District
- 97 complaints
- 19 inspections
Virginia Beach Health District
- 661 complaints
- 10 inspections completed with ABC
- 2 suspensions
Norfolk Health District
- 615 complaints, including duplicate entries
- 147 establishments contacted via phone and/or in-person to educate and provide guidance
- 17 joint inspections conducted with ABC
- 3 permits suspended
Three Rivers Health District
- 360 complaints assigned to staff
- Of 360 complaints, 250 contacted via phone/in-person for education and corrective action
Jason Williams, Environmental Health Supervisor for the Food Program at the Chesapeake Health District, said their district saw a huge influx of complaints come in around that time period.
“Right after the governor's announcement, it really picked up,” Williams said. “I think before, we were kind of trying to wait until they get a certain amount of complaints, before we enacted. Now, we're trying to do the educate first as soon as we get one complaint, and try to go from there.”
While they verify complaints and visit facilities, he said education is their first approach.
“We will usually contact them by phone first to make sure they're aware of the requirements under the executive orders,” Williams said. “We'd like to go over what their plan is, and how they're mitigating any violations.”
He believes a good portion of their complaints are related to customers not wearing face coverings.
Overall, he's satisfied with enforcement.
“I think a lot of it is the individual's responsibility to wear their face coverings, to avoid large gatherings,” he said.
Moving forward, he believes education is important to help businesses and slow the spread.
“We understand a lot of businesses are hurting right now. The last thing we'd want to do is close anybody,” Williams said. “If we can get them to change their policies, change their attitudes so that they are in compliance with the executive orders, and also ensuring a safe environment, then we'll do anything we possibly can.”