Officials: Inspectors face hostility amid COVID enforcement
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A county executive in Maryland said health inspectors have experienced harassment while enforcing coronavirus restrictions in the county, prompting calls to police and leading officials to reconsider their approach on enforcement.
One of those incidents happened over the weekend when Anne Arundel County health department inspectors were at a restaurant in Glen Burnie for violations that included people not wearing masks and exceeding the allowed capacity, Anne Arundel County Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman told the Capital Gazette.
Kalyanaraman said the inspectors were “verbally berated” and one inspector’s photo was also taken as he was getting into his car. That photo was posted on a Facebook page with a caption that included an expletive, and has been shared about 100 times. It’s unclear who posted it, the newspaper said.
“Our staff, and particularly our female staff, are met with hostility at a level that we had never seen before, and frankly, it’s not acceptable,” Kalyanaraman said. “They are doing their job; they’re doing what we’ve asked them to do.”
Women inspectors have reported experiencing less hostility when they are sent out with their male counterparts, he said.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said the incidents and a fear of “civil unrest” have even made officials hesitant about increasing enforcement as Thanksgiving approaches. He said officers will ask large groups to disperse, but will be careful. “We do not want to fuel the flames of the divisions that exist,” Pittman said.
But Anne Arundel County Councilman Nathan Volke said business owners have also complained to him about inspectors. He said the owners want to follow the restrictions “99.9%” of the time but are confused.
“They are trying to follow the rules, but the rules are so unclear. Many times they are arbitrary and don’t make a lot of sense,” Volke said.
Health officials in the county will meet with police this week to discuss safety concerns.