Thousands Of COVID-19 Safety Complaints Lodged Against Area Businesses
There have been more than 1,150 complaints against local businesses for not following COVID-19 safety guidelines since Cuyahoga County rolled out its new online reporting tool Friday.
Through the new system, individuals can submit reviews anonymously online about whether businesses are following guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing masks. The reviews are then plotted on a map where anyone can log on and see if a business is enforcing safety guidelines, said the county's public safety director Alex Pellom.
In the new tool, individuals report businesses' compliance through an online form. They answer questions such as whether employees and customers are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing, and whether hand sanitizer has been made readily available. They can also indicate if violations have occurred multiple times.
Green dots on the map indicate full compliance, yellow means partial compliance, and red means no compliance.
Complaints appear on the map one to two days after they are submitted and vetted for relevancy, Pellom said. Staff members have had to weed out entries that contain hate speech or obscenities, he said.
“You get, unfortunately, some people that like to spew some hate or vent a little bit, and it has nothing to do with the actual health and safety,” Pellom said.
So far, restaurants, bars, gas stations and retail stores across the county have been plotted on the map. Other types of establishments include schools, such as Strongsville High School, which was reported for people not wearing PPE and social distancing July 20. Another entry reports the “parking lot” of Bakers Square and Old Time Pottery in Parma Heights for those same violations.
Some reviews contain spelling errors and inconsistencies – for example, Barrio in Lakewood is listed as “Bario’s” in one entry.
Reviews submitted by the public are not vetted by his department for accuracy, Pellom said.
“We don’t drill down to the individual. Like, if there’s a Hardee’s, we’re not gonna go to Hardee’s and check off and make sure all [violations] are correct,” he said.
Complaints are instead passed along to the county and local health departments to take appropriate action, and county officials send letters to the businesses that were reported for violations asking them to comply, he said.
The goal of the map is to allow users to decide where to shop based on an establishment’s reported compliance, Pellom said.
“What we don’t want it to turn into is a way people can take potshots at businesses or a way people can snipe at people,” he said. “If you see a violation that’s occurring, it takes a whole community to fix this.”
ideastream reached out to several businesses on the map for comment, but calls were not immediately returned.
Since opening a telephone complaint line earlier this month, the county has received more than 4,000 submissions, Pellom said. About half of those complaints are “viable,” he said.