Los Angeles County health inspectors have received thousands of complaints about businesses not complying with the latest health orders and have conducted multiple visits to ensure infection control measures are put in place.
With an estimated 3,000 complaints received per week, the county Department of Public Health has created a tiered compliance and enforcement plan for those caught violating safety measures.
“We’re not seeing the compliance that we need, with the Public Health directives in place, to keep people’s health and livelihoods safe,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a previous virtual media briefing.
Complaints about businesses not complying in the Santa Clarita Valley had increased from 93 in May to more than 200 by July, according to Public Health data.
“A review of our inspection data revealed most complaints were at restaurants and were generated by the inspectors when they observed the re-opening protocol wasn’t completed,” officials with Public Health’s media department said in an email, adding that 14 businesses with serious violations warranted a re-inspection. Most violations revolved around employees failing to wear face coverings.
The goal is to educate businesses in helping them understand what the requirements are “and then assess the severity of the violations,” according to Davis.
The county’s plan is broken down into three visits by health inspectors and could include citations and fines for those at repeatedly fail to comply:
For permitted and licensed facilities:
During the first visit for those permitted and licensed, such as grocery stores, public pools and body art businesses, they are informed about protocols and measures that must be practiced. Inspectors can also issue a $100 fine or a notice of intent to suspect permits. To ensure issues discussed during the visit have been addressed, inspectors can return within three to seven days.
If compliance is not met by the second visit, the department will issue a $500 fine and suspend the facility permit for seven days. A follow-up visit is also scheduled to ensure the locale is in complete compliance with the health officer order and reopening protocols.
The third visit includes a second $500 fine and a permit suspension for 30 days. Public Health will also notify the state of the business’ noncompliance.
For those without permit or license
Businesses without a Public Health permit or license, such as hair and nail salons or offices, would receive a letter from the department following a complaint reported against them, notifying what corrections needed. If a second complaint is received, a field visit from an inspector would follow.
The first visit would include a $100 fine, a notice of violation and a possible referral to an appropriate regulatory agency, such as the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control or the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Second and third visits constitute a $500 fine each and local law enforcement would be called for the issuance of a misdemeanor citation on the third visit.
For every citation filed, businesses have the right to appeal, according to Scott Abbot, branch director of District Surveillance and Enforcement for the Environmental Health Division Department of Public Health.
“(The appeal) must be made within 30 days after receiving a citation. It must include the reason for the appeal and you must pay the full amount of the fine prior to the administrative citation hearing,” he said during a recent SCV Chamber of Commerce webinar. “If the determination at the hearing determines that citation was issued and appropriately, the money would be refunded to you.”
Employees who find that their employers are not complying with the county’s health protocols, which include that they report to Public Health when three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases have occurred in the workplace, can file an anonymous complaint by calling the county’s Environmental Health Department at 888-700-9995 or by visiting publichealth.lacounty.gov/eh.
Reported outbreaks at SCV workplaces
As of Aug. 21, Public Health had also tracked an estimated 10 COVID-19 outbreaks at Santa Clarita Valley workplaces, which met the criteria for the department to track them once the businesses reported having three or more laboratory-confirmed diagnoses:
Chipotle on Golden Valley Road reported three confirmed cases and zero symptomatic staff.
European Wax Center in Valencia reported four cases and four symptomatic staff.
L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services’ Avenue Stanford office reported seven cases and zero symptomatic workers.
QMP Water Filtration Co. in Valencia reported 10 cases and zero symptomatic employees.
SCV Sheriff’s Station reported five cases and zero symptomatic staff.
Toll Brothers Inc. in Saugus reported seven cases and zero symptomatic workers.
True Positions Technologies reported four cases and zero symptomatic employees.
Contractors Wardrobe in Valencia reported 17 cases and zero symptomatic employees.
Bay Center Foods LLC reported four cases among staff and four symptomatic employees.
AV Party Rentals confirmed four cases and zero symptomatic employees.
Public Health clarified on its website that “these data are dynamic and may not reflect real-time investigation counts for these settings. Data will change based on daily information gathered by Public Health investigators overseeing and supervising the investigation.”
The duration of time a location is listed on its website depends on how long it may take for the location to have no new positive tests identified in two consecutive 0rounds of testing at skilled nursing facilities or no new exposures at the site for two weeks in non-residential settings, according to Public Health.
“Once this occurs, the location is cleared of the outbreak and removed from our website,” Health Department officials said.