CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County has received more than 500 calls regarding face mask complaints to its mask experience hot line since Friday afternoon, News 5 has learned.
News 5 Investigator Scott Noll said the county is currently calling businesses about the complaints and distributing the complaints to county officials.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish defended the hot line, and told News 5 the mask experience hot line and webpage is not meant to aggressively prosecute those not following the state mask mandate.
Budish said the hot line is there to report chronic violators and promote awareness on the importance of wearing a mask, as Cuyahoga County COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
"The complaint calls are relating to things like department stores, restaurants, bars where people would walk-in and looked around and saw a lot of people not wearing masks,” Budish said.
“We’re looking for a way to help control this pandemic, this is out of control right now.”
“Sending the Sheriff out and putting people behind bars for violating the mask law, that’s not what this is about.”
“It’s not the first time that the government has come in and done something intrusive when it’s necessary."
"Look at seat belt laws those are intrusive. I remember when they were first coming in, people hated it. Don’t tell me to wear a seat belt."
"Well it’s similar here, don’t tell me to wear a mask, but if you don’t people will die."
Ron Graham, Commissioner of the Lake County General Health District told News 5 he's concerned his county will be the next northeast Ohio county to be put on red, level three, COVID-19 alert status.
But he said Lake County would not a establish a hot line where citizens could report people or businesses not following a state mask mandate.
“I think reporting on each other for wearing a mask, not wearing a mask, is just really not beneficial," Graham said.
“I think we need to come to gather as employers and leaders and do the right thing, and I don’t think tattling on your neighbors, or causing more panic and fear is the last thing we need.”
Graham said he's concerned Ohio's color coded COVID -19 alert system is unfairly penalizing counties that have stepped-up testing, placing them in "red status," while still not considering other factors like COVID-19 recoveries, contact tracing and tests per capita data.
Graham said putting a county on level three alert because they have an increase in COVID-19 positive tests is not taking into account all factors, and has an impact on the counties ability to recover economically and prepare for the up-coming school year.
"So unfortunately early on here there is some concern about this system of how we rank communities,” Graham said.
“You’re just kind of set up to fail, to put you in the red zone, where you may or may not be actually warranted.”
“There’s just so many factors, most days you feel like you can’t really win, no matter what your decision of action is.”
“Numbers from the very beginning have been very, very misleading.”
“So many factors in this data that it’s really sad that we can’t get a better grip on what we need to do for the community.”
“Day cares that are half capacity, parents that need to work, or have to get back to work, very challenging to be in these arbitrary restrictions without good data.”
The face mask mandate has been in effect in Cuyahoga County since 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, when Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health issued a public health order mandating face masks in indoor public areas in any county at a “Level 3” COVID-19 risk in the state’s new color-coded Public Health Advisory Alert System.
In total, there were 555 complains reported to the county for mask violations. The complaints vary from employees to customers to police officers not wearing masks.
Some of the complains also involved individuals at house parties, auto repair shops and fast food joints.
You can view the full list of complaints, here.
If you'd like to leave the county feedback on wearing masks, you can do so, here.
News 5 is working to learn more about the complaints made in the county over the weekend.