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Cuyahoga County Health Department prepared to enforce new coronavirus guidelines

Reopening of economy comes with rules
Posted at 4:12 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:53:33-04

PARMA, Ohio — Cuyahoga County's Board of Health says it is prepared to enforce new state guidelines surrounding the reopening of businesses after more than a month of shutdowns intended to stop the spread of coronavirus in Ohio.

"We've seen businesses adapt and the solutions have been creative in working to reduce risk and we look forward to working with businesses going forward to continue those approaches," said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan on Tuesday.

Allan said the health department's call center has already handled more than 1,000 complaints against businesses since the pandemic began. In most cases, he believes, businesses will adhere to new rules concerning disinfecting areas and maintaining social distance once they're allowed to reopen.

"The vast majority we're able to address in discussions to try and make sure we come to a common understanding," said Allan. "There are mechanisms where we have to increase enforcement and we will use those mechanisms as necessary, but it is not the first tool in our box. Education is the first tool in our box."

Already the health department went to court and had a judge order a Parma Heights business closed for violating the state's ban on non-essential businesses. But Allan believes those types of cases will be few and far between.

"Those are very rare," said Allan. "We haven't needed to take that route and I think because people understand and certainly the surveys have shown the vast majority of Americans support these public health protective measures to try and reduce the risk of exposure."

But 5 On Your Side Investigators discovered some workers still have concerns about what's happening in the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it's investigated more than 2,300 complaints from workers associated with COVID-19. At least 54 of those, records show, are complaints from workers in Ohio.

Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation said it has received 228 claims from Ohio workers who believe they contracted COVID-19 at work. Of those, a spokeswoman said, 199 of the claims are from health care and emergency workers.

Despite a possible increase in complaints once businesses re-open, Allan said the health department will be ready.

"We believe that we have the ability to ramp-up if necessary to re-task temporarily based on surge," said Allan. "If we need additional staff, there are plans as the governor detailed to try to help build our capacity in the health department.

Allan said complaints about businesses not complying with the state's guidelines can be made to the health department. In suburban Cuyahoga County, the Board of Health's call center is open during regular business hours. The phone number is (216) 201-2000.