It wasn't until ten months into the pandemic and after they received thousands of complaints that Oneida County began fining local businesses for violating Covid guidelines, and releasing the business names to the public. The number of complaints the county gets daily rivals the ever-growing number of new coronavirus cases in the county.
"Hundreds. I think we get up to 200 complaints a day," says Assistant County Attorney, Maryangela Scalzo.
People leave complants on the Mohawk Valley Crime Stoppers website. MV Crime Stoppers forwards the complaints to the county. Environmental health officials at the County Health Department decide which complaints need to be pursued. Then, much effort is spent visiting and educating businesses, in an effort to encourage compliance.
"If that didn't work, we moved on to letters, we did cease & desist letters, we did educational letters, we even mailed out guidance to some businesses so just recently we started really ramping up enforcement," says Scalzo.This includes determining at an administrative hearing if a business committed the violation and should be fined.
Most of the violations, so far, have been for employees not wearing masks. Fines have ranged from $500 to $2000. County officials expect to release a list of fines and violators approximately every two months. They say the next list will likely include individuals, for violations like holding gatherings that violate Covid guidelines.