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Summit County is surging inspections as businesses reopen

Decals are issued to businesses that attest they are complying with the county’s public health protocols. Businesses in the restaurant and salon sectors are allowed to operate under a pending status until they are inspected this week, after which officials may stamp the decal “approved.” Other businesses will not be inspected in the current round of site visits, though inspectors will respond to citizen complaints.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

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Summit County has set up a hotline to field questions and concerns about the new health order. Officials have said the public will play an important part in notifying the county of businesses that may be operating unsafely. They also advocated people take their business elsewhere if they see a business that is not complying with the health protocols.

About 40 government workers whose day jobs range from fire protection to education to recreation will shift from their normal responsibilities this week to help the Summit County Health Department inspect businesses that are beginning to open.

Businesses are not required to receive a certification from the county to resume operations, officials said, but those in the restaurant and salon sectors will have their safety procedures reviewed by the Health Department to ensure compliance with the May 1 public health order that lifted the stay-at-home mandate and implemented other broad restrictions meant to guard against another coronavirus outbreak in the community.

Gyms, daycare facilities and other businesses will not be inspected in the first round of site visits, Environmental Health Director Nate Brooks said, but may be the subject of a subsequent round of compliance checks. He added that the Health Department will follow up on complaints from the public about businesses’ health practices, as well.

The county requires businesses in the restaurant and salon sectors, including bars, nightclubs, massage parlors and tanning salons, to submit an online registration form that attests they are complying with the safety protocols outlined in the health order.

Some restrictions in the order apply to all businesses, like stringent sanitization and social distancing guidelines. Others are business sector-specific mandates, like limiting dine-in service in restaurants to groups of six spaced at least 6 feet apart from other groups.

Once the Health Department reviews an application, it will send the business an orange decal to post in a prominent location that identifies the business as a “stabilization supporter.” The decal will have a “pending” mark in restaurants and salons until an inspector has certified their efforts, at which point it will be marked “approved.”

Other businesses are encouraged to submit the form and display the decal but will not be inspected in the first wave of site visits. They are allowed to operate without inspection from the county.

Brooks estimated there would be about 350 inspections in the initial days. His office of eight people normally inspects the county’s roughly 300 restaurants annually. The county’s economic development director, Jeff Jones, said there are roughly 3,000 businesses countywide.

Brooks added that the department will also inspect businesses based on complaints from the public, something he did personally on Monday after the county received calls from the employees of a Main Street business. He found the retailer was mostly compliant with the health order and educated the proprietor about how to satisfy the rest of the requirements.

Officials have said community feedback is crucial in making sure the economy can begin to open safely.

“It’s the customer that ultimately is going to determine whether or not this works,” Health Director Rich Bullough said at a press conference last week. “I encourage the customers, if they see places that are not compliant and that they believe are a risk, don’t go there. You need to walk the walk and take your money where you believe you’re safe. We believe that that will help businesses be compliant. We’re going to depend on all of you to help us with that.”

Brooks said the emphasis will be on educating business owners rather than punishing them.

“Not, ‘You’re doing it wrong,’ it’s how can we work through this together, because it’s not easy. There’s compassion and understanding,” Brooks said. “So far, everyone has wanted to be compliant.”

Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said the Sheriff’s Office did not issue any citations related to business compliance with the new order and that he wasn’t aware of any calls related to the subject.

The county provides a hotline to help the public navigate the new mandates. Deputy County Manager Janna Young, who helps oversee the Emergency Operations Center that runs the hotline, said the county fielded 51 calls over the weekend.

“We’d rather just help people with compliance assistance and only if we find blatant violations — especially if knowingly businesses are doing it and getting a competitive advantage — pursue enforcement,” Young said.

But officials have stressed how important it is to proceed with caution, saying a surge in cases and a reversion to a stay-at-home order could further imperil the local economy.

“If we do see specific violations, we’re very serious about this,” Bullough said. “If we see an egregious violation, we will close the business. So individuals need to understand and business owners need to understand that, within the order, we have authorities to close the business with one violation. And we will do so.”


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