Health Department investigates violations of state health order

Punishments for violating state health orders

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Restaurant owners have an even more difficult job than ever now, they have to balance attempting to prevent further spread of COVID-19, while trying to make a living for themselves and employees.

Cheryl Clay from the Madison County Health Department said her office has been getting all sorts of calls since dining rooms reopened.

Some calls are restaurants owners and managers with different questions, other calls are concerned people with complaints.

Clay said they work to investigate the complaints, but not all of the complaints people call in with are actually against the rules.

“I think the biggest one that we are getting most recently is the public perception that employees in the kitchen are required to wear masks too,” she said.

Checking restaurants during the pandemic

Clay said it is only a violation of the state health order if employees who are interacting with customers are not wearing a mask, not the ones back working in the kitchen.

Clay said the health department does get a lot of legitimate complaints, though, and they do go investigate.

Despite typically working the usual 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, health inspectors will adjust their work days if they need to investigate a bar or restaurant in the later evening hours.

If restaurant owners are found in violation of our current state health order they can get their food permit temporarily suspended.

Clay said the complaints the health department sees the most are employees interacting with customers and not wearing a mask properly or tables not being far enough apart.

But, Clay said restaurants have to be caught in the act by a health inspector, inspectors cannot just go off of a customer’s report.

If they are caught in violation of one of the regulations, the health inspector can and will pull the restaurant’s food permit. Clay said the inspectors work quickly to educate the restaurant workers and get everyone back to work.

“To have their permit reinstated they have to write a written plan on how they’re going to comply moving forward with that order they have to enact that plan and then the health inspector has to verify that they’re following that plan and there are no current violations and everything has been evaded,” Clay said.

Clay encourages anyone to call their county health department with any questions about the regulations or what restaurants can and cannot do right now.

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