State officials have been nice. It’s good to have caring, sensitive leaders and public servants. But maybe they’ve been too nice.
Based on a recent report, there are hundreds of businesses violating state coronavirus policies, thereby contributing to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
The numbers are not good, but they are not bad either: According to a recent review of records from the Louisiana Fire Marshal, Louisiana Department of Health, and Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, as of Thursday more than 3,900 businesses have been inspected since May 4 and more than 430 of those businesses had at least one violation.
For most of us, about a 90% compliance rate would be a positive number, and there appear to be good reasons to believe that where a violation was found, it was pretty promptly corrected.
Between June 26 and July 5, the state conducted more than 1,000 inspections at restaurants; more than 660 at retail stores, more than 400 at bars; more than 325 at businesses and organizations and more than 300 at salons or personal care establishments. Additionally, there were inspections at 70 casinos, 55 at fitness clubs, 50 at places of worship, 40 at amusement centers and museums, 26 at event centers, 19 at libraries and five at theaters.
Settings with the most coronavirus outbreaks: One can easily guess. Bars, 36 outbreaks and 393 cases. Food processing plants, 11 outbreaks and 423 cases. Industrial settings, 16 outbreaks and 117 cases.
Each of these businesses are places where owners and managers should be doing a better job balancing public safety and the need to make enough money to cover expenses, pay employees and earn a profit.
From the beginning, Gov. John Bel Edwards and others have stressed voluntary compliance, that we're not going to enforce the virus away. Still, if we’re not getting more cooperation from individuals and businesses, maybe it’s time to move to penalties for repeat offenses.
At this point, the state has issued zero citations and zero penalties. According to a state fire marshal representative, businesses get another visit after an initial inspection finds issue and cases are closed if the problem has been fixed. If the same violation or a new violation is found, however, additional measures are considered.
Certainly we have many more businesses and public places that could have been inspected, but staffing and time are significant factors. Inevitably, that means that compliance is based less on enforcement by officers than it is by customers.
It's a tough balance, flattening the curve and significantly reducing coronavirus cases and deaths, and resuming some type of pandemic-era business operations. We encourage state officials to be honest with the public. Cite and penalize offenders with multiple violations.
We won’t control the virus but we can better control the actions contributing to its community spread.