Today, there were mixed messages on whether or not newly contracted state health inspectors have the authority to order a business closed.
During a meeting of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega asked about the new contractors. They have been hired to investigate people’s complaints about not wearing masks inside businesses in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.
Instead of fining small business owners, Vega suggested the contractor’s skills could be better used in the effort to vaccinate the more than 465,000 residents who live in the county.
Prince William Health District chief Dr. Alison Ansher replied to Vega, saying she didn’t believe the contractors had the authority to shudder a business.
“Generally, we don’t try to close places down,” explained Ansher. “We try to use education to explain the importance of wearing masks.”
Three new contractors were hired in early February to conduct surprise visits to ensure people are wearing masks. If they’re not, the contractors can revoke a business’s occupancy permit, putting it out of business, reports the Prince William Times.
Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson pointed out that fact, as reported by the newspaper. Ansher had no further comment on the issue.
Since May, there have been more than 1,800 mask complaints filed with the Prince William Health District office, an arm of the Virginia Department of Health. Most have been unfounded.
While Gov. Ralph Northam eased some coronavirus restrictions this week, including allowing restaurants to stay open past 10 p.m., his order requiring Virginia residents to wear a mask in public remains in effect.
Virginia is one of 35 states that still have a mask mandate in place. Governors in Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Mississippi, and Texas have lifted their mask mandates.
It’s up to the state health department to enforce Governor Northam’s mask mandate, not the police