I-TEAM: What’s going on with new state mask enforcement unit?

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team is investigating what state of Ohio inspectors are finding with a new unit formed to make sure people are wearing masks at stores.

State agencies, though, have not released specifics. Meantime, we’ve found mask complaints keep pouring into a local hotline.

We just received an updated list of calls to a Cuyahoga County hotline set up in July. Since then, more than 5,500 calls have come in including some in recent days.

Recordings obtained by the I-Team reveal one man calling to complain about a business saying, “The employees don’t wear masks. I asked them to…they swore at me.”

And, a woman reported, “He had a mask dangling from his ear. That is inexcusable for a place that is serving food.”

We’ve shown you, Cuyahoga County simply sends out letters alerting businesses when they’re the targets of mask complaints.

But, this month, the governor announced the state had formed a new unit. Sending investigators all over Ohio.  Checking to see if stores are following rules for making sure everyone wears a mask.
The I-Team has pressed various state agencies for more than a week to find out what the mask enforcement unit is finding. What action is it taking?

The Ohio Department of Health did tell us, “Around 100 individuals are part of the compliance unit.” And, the unit is going to “dozens of locations across the state including large and small retail businesses.”

But, the health department is not releasing names of businesses. In fact, the health department has not released any more information.

A spokesperson didn’t explain, saying only, “The team is working as fast as they can to compile the information and make it public.”

Video obtained this week by the I-team shows mask rules can even lead to serious trouble. Police in Erie County arrested a man when they say he pulled out brass knuckles after being asked to leave a store for not wearing a mask.

We’ll keep pushing state agencies to reveal more about their mask enforcement.

The city of Cleveland has also taken in many complaints about people not wearing masks. Yet, the city has never produced any records of anyone cited for that even though city council passed new regulations for wearing a mask including penalties for breaking those new rules.

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