Dept. of Health launches online COVID-19 complaint form, more than 1,200 already filed

Investigators

Harrisburg, PA. (WHTM)- The Pennsylvania Department of Health has posted an online form so residents can file a complaint about how a business is handling COVID-19.

According to the Department of Health, more than 1,200 complaints have been filed since the form was posted online yesterday.

The complaint form asks for information about the business, your relationship to business/facility, and the public health complaint. The form gives a list of a dozen potential public health concerns including, employees coming to work sick, social distancing not being practiced, equipment not being sanitized, and employees not being allowed to stay home when sick.

While some support the effort, others feel it is unnecessary since law enforcement can already investigate complaints without a form being filed with the Department of Health.

“This is snitching, telling on your neighbors. The whole climate of it is just awful,” said Representative Dawn Keefer, 92nd Legislative District.

Keefer represents parts of York and Cumberland counties.

“When businesses are so desperate right now, now you are going to come down on them harder. We are going to go one step further and make sure everyone knows you are on watch and big brother is watching you. This is just terrible that it’s out there right now,” said Keefer.

According to the Department of Health, there is a group of individuals from across various agencies who are reviewing the complaints and will then determine what steps should be taken.

Rep. Keefer says while the state wants information about how businesses are operating, it has been less then transparent about how it is issuing waivers to businesses, that are not deemed essential, to stay open. Despite several requests the state will only release the number of waivers that were granted, denied and applied for. It has not released the names of businesses and what standard it is being used to to determine why a business is granted a waiver.

“They can’t comply with a right to know request, however they can set up this website so you can tattle on your neighbor,” said Rep. Keefer. “All of the waivers that were issued have been uploaded into the JNET (Pennsylvania Justice Network), which is a system used by law enforcement so they can check to see when they are on a call at a business if they have a waiver or not. So they are able to upload it there but they can’t provide it to the public. I don’t see any net gain out of this other than to be punitive and really hammer down on our businesses and keep our communities under their thumbs,” said Rep. Keefer.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the “intent is not to punish businesses” and enforcement agencies are to begin with warnings, before moving to more significant enforcement like fines.

The Department of Health says the form is to file complaints about businesses, not individuals.

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