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State officials want to pay counties $50K to enforce social distancing complaints

Posted at 7:35 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-02 00:46:59-04

Arizona health officials are offering two major county health departments $50K each to investigate complaints of businesses failing to enforce social distancing.

ABC15 has received a contract that was sent to Maricopa County as part of an Intergovernmental Agreement that would help health officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services enforce complaints against businesses not following strict social distancing measures.

According to documents, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and County Health Departments (CHDs) would address complaints at businesses such as gyms, bars, indoor movie theaters, water parks and restaurants with indoor settings.

RELATED: As more businesses reopen, will enforcement truly take place?

The scope of service would include "educating" public places based on Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order that details following strict guidelines and mitigation protocols like practicing physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, operating at appropriate capacity limits and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The contract would be part of a new effort by ADHS to send investigators into businesses across Arizona based on complaints by the public. However, now we’re learning that the contract would include paying counties to investigate these complaints.

RELATED: ADHS creates hotline, website where the public can submit COVID-19 safety violations

ABC15 is also learning that Pima County officials also received the same contract. Pima county officials are pushing back against the proposed contract saying that they already enforce social distancing and mitigation strategies inside businesses. However, they write about concerns in the contract that rely on educating

In a response letter to ADHS, documents say that giving $50,000 to Pima County as reimbursement is "grossly inadequate."

The letter signed by Pima County’s Administrator details that the Pima County Health Department has received around 1,338 actionable complaints during the last quarter that cost more than $52,000 without including cost of IT, fleet, supplies, and other related expenses.

It also states that Pima County Health Department would need to hire 10 more people to conduct and enforce the governor’s executive order. That would cost an estimated amount of $639,000.

Pima County officials also pushed back in the letter that the state does not have mask standards in the Intergovernmental Agreement. “Another major omission of the IGA is that it is silent regarding enforcement of public mask standards and/or requirements,” the letter states.

Maricopa County officials told ABC15 last week that they received the contract from ADHS so program details for investigating complaints are not final.

They released a statement late Tuesday night saying, "The County is in negotiations with the state and the contract has not been finalized, so we won’t be releasing it at this time."

It’s also unclear what happens if counties do not sign the agreement.