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County: Most businesses COVID-19 compliant; rules on masks up to establishment

By Carla O'Day

Washoe County has found most businesses are following COVID-19 safety guidelines; and those that aren’t, quickly come into compliance once alerted.

When giving a report on Tuesday to Washoe County commissioners, Assistant County Manager David Solaro explained how complaints against businesses that opened during Phase 1, which began May 9, have been handled. The county has partnered with Reno and Sparks to be sure guidelines are uniform across jurisdictions.

Once a complaint to 3-1-1 comes in, Solaro said information is provided to the proper municipality. The case is then assigned to a code compliance officer.

“They go out and review the complaint with the business and view guidelines on-site with the business owner and provide information,” Solaro said. “What we’re finding is that when we follow back up in 48 hours, our businesses become compliant.”

Solaro said any business still found to be noncompliant will have its case forwarded to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. But as of late last week, he said Washoe County had no open complaints.

“At this time, we’ve not had to forward any items to the sheriff’s office,” said Solaro, referring to unincorporated areas. “Education seems to work very well.”

At Noble Pie Parlor red tape marks the spots on tables where patrons are encouraged to keep free in order to maintain a safe distance from each other.
At Noble Pie Parlor red tape marks the spots on tables where patrons are encouraged to keep free in order to maintain a safe distance from each other. Image: Eric Marks

Examples of safety guidelines for businesses include limiting the number of customers to a maximum of 50 percent of fire code occupancy, hand sanitizing stations for customers and employees, and 6-foot social distancing markers.

Whether to require customers to wear masks is a separate issue, Solaro said. Some businesses require patrons wear masks, while others do not.

There have been some reports of customers getting upset with businesses for enforcing company policies that require everybody wear masks. Others get perturbed at businesses that aren’t mandating masks.

“It’s currently being urged to wear facial coverings, but not all businesses agree with that,” Solaro said. “We are not there to police that piece.”

Customers who dislike a business’ mask policy don’t have to shop there, he said.

Washoe County also temporarily suspended late fees on business licenses and hasn’t assessed penalties on sewer bills effective April, May and June, and extensions are possible.

“We know there are some business that are not open,” Solaro said. “They’re not bringing in revenue and it’s difficult for them to make payments necessary.”

The gaming tax portion of applicable licenses is still under review.

Commissioners acknowledged that businesses opening during Phase 2, tentatively set to start Friday, might take time to adjust to guidelines.

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