PHOENIX — State health officials are looking to Arizonans to snitch on businesses that aren’t complying with safe operating procedures.
The request Wednesday comes as several Arizona counties are expected to reach the point today that previously closed businesses can again welcome customers.
But those new permissions come with restrictions on everything from who has to wear a mask to how many patrons can be allowed in at any one time. And so now the Department of Health Services wants anyone who sees an errant business to contact that agency or other state or local officials.
Spokesman Steve Elliott said his agency is contracting with most local public health department to investigate complaints and enforce the requirements of the various executive orders issued by Gov. Doug Ducey. For counties that don’t contract with the state, health inspectors themselves will go out to take a look.
Those inquiries, he said, will involve not just observation of how a business is operating but also interviews with customers and employees.
But Mr. Elliott said there’s a role for the public as well.
“If you believe a business isn’t following these requirements, which were established for the safety of customers, employees and the broader public, ADHS encourages you to share your concerns so local and state officials can follow up as needed,” he said.
Those complaints, Mr. Elliott said, can be filed directly with local law enforcement, county health departments, his own agency and, in the case of bars and restaurants with liquor licenses, with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.
Until now, most Arizona counties have been classified as having a “substantial” risk of the spread of COVID-19. That kept many businesses shuttered.
Today, the state’s largest counties and a few others are expected to move into the “moderate” category. That means big changes.
For example, some places licensed as bars will be able to open their doors. But that will be only at 50% occupancy, and only if they convert to what the state calls “restaurant service,” meaning people remaining seated at their tables with no mingling.
Dancing is definitely out.
Gyms and fitness centers also can reopen, but at 25% capacity, with requirements that people be separated by at least six feet. Guests also will have their temperatures checked at the door, or at least be screened for symptoms.
And forget about just showing up for Pilates and Zumba classes, with a new requirement for online or phone pre-booking to limit the number of guests.
Indoor theaters will be limited to 50%, with space not only between parties in the same row but also leaving alternate rows empty. There also will need to be access to either soap and water for handwashing or alcohol-based sanitizer throughout the facility.
There’s a similar requirement for water parks and tubing operations, along with encouraging or requiring patrons to bring their own towels.
And in all cases, face masks are required except while eating, drinking or actually being in the water.