New Penalties for COVID-19 Restaurant Safety Noncompliance

As the coronavirus pandemic swells into a second wave, government officials across the nation are reiterating the need for safety precautions. Los Angeles health inspectors said that over half of the 2,000 restaurants they visited this week were not complying with COVID-19 safety rules. Fed up with noncompliance, officials are escalating their warnings into financial penalties.

“We’re seeing some people getting a little too comfortable about not wearing masks,” said Miami’s Mayor. “Rest assured, if you’re a business owner and decide that it is not your problem, we’re going to make it your problem. Because our education campaign is now over. Businesses that are not abiding by the rules will be shut down by Miami-Dade Police.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said this week that his office received 25,000 complaints of safety noncompliance at retail establishments. “It’s not rocket science,” he said in a public hearing, emphasizing restaurants in Manhattan. “If you have large gatherings of people who are not socially distanced, who are not wearing masks, you will have an increased spread of the virus. It may not come for a period of time, but it will come. And once it comes, it’s too late. Now you’re back up into a spike situation.” 

Cuomo said he is instructing his police officers and health inspectors to issue fines. He explicitly threatened that he would shut down businesses and even entire areas of the city to penalize noncompliance.

Washington State officials posted a warning that they will fine employers $10,000 or force them to close if they do not comply with the state’s Stay Home, Stay Safe framework. “The coronavirus is a known workplace hazard and businesses must follow the requirements to keep their workers and the public safe,” said Joel Sacks, Washington State’s Director of the Department of Labor and Industries.

Philadelphia has enacted a “$2,000 per day and, if it comes down to it, an order to cease,” according to Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. In Vermont, officials are limiting restaurant occupancy to 25% and issuing a flurry of red lettered warnings to restaurant owners.

In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine is threatening to revoke liquor licenses for infringing drinking establishments. “What we saw in some bars this weekend, pictures that made national news… customers were not following the rules, and people running the bar were not taking responsibility,” reprimanded DeWine.

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel punishingly extended the country’s prohibition of big events, such as fairs and concerts, until October. “The economic collapse is the most serious we’ve ever seen in the German Federal Republic,” warned Merkel. Millions of residents in other cities abroad like Beijing are also locked down again this week. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has extended restaurant closures until at least July “and will stay closed until the government has carried out further research.”

U.S. testing centers have confirmed 27,975 new cases of COVID-19 since yesterday, bringing the total to 2,132,321 cases and 116,862 deaths. Hospitalizations in Florida and Texas climbed for a seventh consecutive day.

Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

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