RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Nearly 16,000 complaints were sent to the Virginia Department of Health reporting businesses across the state that are not following guidelines created to curb the spread of COVID-19.
VDH launched its online complaint form in June and last week, 8News obtained data for nearly 9,000 statewide complaints through a Freedom of Information Act request. Thousands of additional complaints have been added to the list since we received the report and we have asked VDH for the updated complaints.
A first look at the data, however, shows that restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores in the City of Richmond received the most complaints in our area.
More than 1,300 allegations against businesses in the City of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield counties have flooded into the agency. Reports accuse both employees and customers of not wearing masks or not social distancing. Many businesses are also accused of allowing too many people inside the establishments.
Most businesses listed the data 8News received have a handful of complaints, and no single business location has received more than 10 complaints. One business location, Dunkin Donuts at Waterford Place in Chesterfield County, has received nine complaints.
Despite hundreds of complaints against restaurants, VDH has not suspended any food safety permits in Richmond or Henrico. We are currently awaiting results for suspensions in Chesterfield.
“We have not gotten to a point where we’ve had to pull any permits yet,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Richmond and Henrico Health Director.
The reports VDH received through its complaint form are then researched and verified by the agency, and many of the complaints are not legitimate. A review of the data shows that some of them are clearly jokes.
Avula noted that in some cases, people have reported violations that they think are covered by Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Orders, but they do not.
Avula says they first “educate” business owners on the regulations before moving forward with any citations. He said some people may still be learning the new guidelines.
8News asked if it’s appropriate to still give businesses the benefit of doubt at this point during the pandemic.
“I don’t think that if a restaurant has one complaint that’s ground to actually remove a permit. I think if we get into a three complaint, establishing a pattern on non-compliance, that that does warrant action,” Avula said.
A LOOK INSIDE THE DATA
8News received information from the Virginia Department of Health pertaining to nearly 9,000 complaints filed against Virginia businesses for violating guidelines designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
|NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED|
|City of Richmond||792|