I-TEAM: Are concerns and complaints about COVID-19 being mishandled?

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The I-TEAM has found what’s not happening when you contact the City of Cleveland with concerns and complaints tied to the spread of COVID-19.

We reviewed a breakdown of hundreds of referrals to the Cleveland Department of Public Health about crowds, stores and workplaces.

Records show, in most cases, someone from the city simply made a call and spoke to a person at the business named in the complaint, sometimes, only leaving a message.

Suzanne Turner, who is blind, told us she never even got a call back when she contacted the city to get some advice for the blind during the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, in our review of the city records, there’s no mention of any follow-up next to Turner’s inquiry.

“We got nothing. We heard nothing. No one picked up the phone,” said Turner.

She’s active with the Cleveland chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

“We use our hands for everything for distance and communication. We just wanted to know what was the best practice,” she said.

*Read more stories on the coronavirus pandemic, including its impact on Ohio, here.*

We also found bureaucratic bungling after complaints about crowds at playgrounds.

After one complaint, the city health department wrote, “attempted to reach the Cleveland Recreation Department, call could not be completed.”

Another time, they noted a worker tried to call Cleveland Rec, and the “line was busy.” Someone finally left a message there four days later.

And, at Zone Rec Center, records show ‘no response not able to leave a message.’

We’ve shown you how Cleveland police have cited a few businesses during the governor’s stay-at-home order. Records show the health department has only made a few visits to sites of complaints.

Cleveland City Hall refused to answer I-TEAM questions for this story.

Turner finally got an email from the city sending those who are blind to go check out a website for more information.

“It’s just insulting, like you said, to just get nothing,” she said.

The city took weeks to release a spreadsheet with about 400 complaints. We’ll push to review more of the complaints that have come in since our last records request.

*Click here for more investigative stories from the I-TEAM*

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