COVID-19 safety complaints: What businesses have the most in Hampton Roads?


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Since mid-June, thousands of complaints about businesses violating Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening restrictions have been reported to the Virginia Department of Health.

Data provided by the Virginia Department of Health shows that members of the public have filed more than 3,000 complaints against Hampton Roads businesses since June 14. VDH provided data for Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Portsmouth, the Peninsula, and Western Tidewater. 10 On Your Side has also requested a copy of the same data for complaints lodged against Chesapeake businesses. VDH spokesman Larry Hill says he’s working to obtain that information.

10 On Your Side investigators sifted through the complaints provided by VDH to find the locations and businesses people reported most. We pulled out the names of companies based on a single location for that company having at least three complaints lodged against it.

Since May 29, Virginians ages 10 and up have been required to wear face coverings inside all brick-and-mortar stores, salons and barbershops, on public transportation and anywhere 6 feet of social distancing isn’t possible.

The state created an online system to report violations of face coverings and select phase 3 restrictions. The form allows a person to list the type of establishment in violation, the name, address, and information pertaining to the violation.

The majority of complaints were about restaurants, followed by grocery or convenience stores and then brick-and-mortar retail. The three violations the VDH is tracking are: whether face-coverings are being worn; if social distancing is being adhered to; and if the establishment is overcrowded.

The following information is based on our analysis of companies that had at least three complaints filed against a single location:

Top 5 companies with most complaints

  1. 102 complaints: Food Lion
  2. 92 complaints: Walmart
  3. 86 complaints: Wawa
  4. 85 complaints: Harris Teeter
  5. 61 complaints: Lowe’s Home Improvement

Top 5 business locations reported

  1. 17 complaints: Mack’s Barge — 4300 Colley Ave, Norfolk
  2. 14 complaints: Lowe’s Home Improvement — 2002 Power Plant Parkway, Hampton
  3. 12 complaints: Food Lion — 2401 Colley Avenue, Norfolk
  4. 11 complaints:
    1. Harris Teeter — 7550 Granby Street, Norfolk
    2. Harris Teeter — 2105 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach
    3. Walmart — 2601 George Washington Memorial Highway, Yorktown
    4. Wawa — 5824 George Washington Memorial Highway, Yorktown
    5. Barons Pub — 185 N Main Street, Suffolk

It’s important to clarify that complaints from citizens don’t necessarily mean the claim was founded by the health department or any enforcement was carried out.

In the case of Mack’s Barge, they were forced to shut down. However, Barons Pub in Suffolk has remained open.

Dr. Todd Wagner, who oversees the Western Tidewater Health District, says no businesses have been shut down for non-compliance in that district.

“We’ve not needed to go there yet,” Wagner said. “Oftentimes, educating the business owner solves the problem.”

Wagner said every complaint is looked at and once at least three separate complaints are filed, the health department staff calls the business.

“The third complaint, I’m going to call them and we are going to walk down the governor’s checklist,” Wagner said. “In some cases, we will also do ‘secret shoppers.'”

To encourage more businesses to comply, Chesapeake City Manager Chris Price said they are reaching out to businesses with a central message.

“Regardless of what you believe, if you mask up, you are helping that small business, you are helping them stay open, you are helping them not going back to phase 2,” Price said.

Correction: A earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a particular percentage of complaints had been filed since July 14.

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