BALTIMORE (WJZ) – In the nearly two weeks since Gov. Larry Hogan announced the deployment of “High Visibility Compliance Units” across the state, Maryland State Police say they’ve received about 1,600 complaints they’ve passed to local authorities.

Authorities say education and warnings are always the first actions.

“If (a business) continue(s) to violate after they’re re-inspected, then they would be served with a closure order,” MSP Sgt. Travis Nelson said. “(Our goal is) not to shut down businesses. It’s not to infringe on anyone’s rights.”

CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:

Sgt. Nelson coordinates compliance and enforcement with state public health orders. He says MSP’s goal is to keep businesses open safely.

About 100 troopers make up the “High Visibility Compliance Units,” which are deployed across the state to help local officials with compliance.

“We are gonna get there. We are gonna pass through this. It’s just a little while longer,” Sgt. Nelson said. “We’re really focusing on super-spreader events.”

Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman says the health department has investigated more than 1,900 complaints so far, finding violations in about 13% of those visits. Only five businesses were forced to shut down and all reopened within days, according to Dr. Kalyanaraman.

“That closure requires they have a plan for how they’re going to keep people safe during COVID,” Dr. Kalyanaraman said. “The main things we see are proper mask usage, distancing, hand hygiene, particularly for staff, and then the other is occupancy.”

Anne Arundel County Police say they are investigating assaults on employees of multiple businesses for employee attempts to get customers to comply with mask mandates—first, at a Cold Stone Creamery in Edgewater in November, and again this week at Bowl America in Glen Burnie.

Anne Arundel County health officials, responding to a complaint, issued a warning to a Pasadena church pastor last month after they say the pastor answered the door without a mask.

“From our perspective, you know you’re answering the door, you know someone’s going to be there. You should have your mask on,” Dr. Kalyanaraman said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Paul Gessler