State has fined 11 businesses over COVID-19 mask mandate

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — State investigators have fined 11 Washington businesses for allegedly failing to enforce portions of the state’s face mask mandate, according to a release Wednesday from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Mail Express Business Center in Enumclaw got the largest fine, $7,500. Investigators determined customers and employees there were not wearing masks and no signs were posted about the mandate, officials said.

According to L&I, the owner told investigators she did not enforce masking because, “she did not want to be an unpaid agent of the government,” KING-TV reported.

The news outlet talked to an L&I employee named Brian who said the overwhelming majority of businesses named in complaints turned out to be in compliance, or quickly made changes to follow the mandate.

Brian told KING-TV he didn’t want his last name used because there’s a “significant security concern” in his work spot-checking businesses. He said threats have been made.

If he or another worker visits a location and notices a problem with compliance, the business is supposed to receive a phone call and a cease and desist letter from the state.

If the company continues to fail to follow the mandate, a full investigation is conducted before any fines are issued, according to an L&I spokesperson.

Investigators said they have received thousands of complaints about businesses not following the mask mandate since it went into effect in July.

Since the pandemic began earlier this year, nearly 92,000 people in Washington have tested positive for COVID-19 and 2,183 people have died, according to the Department of Health online dashboard.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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