2021 | Coronavirus

County has investigated 124 COVID-19 complaints at construction sites

No citations or stop work orders issued; county declines to name repeat offenders

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Montgomery County officials have investigated 124 construction sites for possible COVID-19 violations, but have issued no citations or stop work orders since the pandemic began in March.

Out of the 124 inspections, the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services gave 115 verbal warnings and “educational outreach,” according to Carmen Berrios Martinez, division chief of Permitting Services’ Division of Customer Support and Outreach.

Nine construction sites received notices of violations for persistent offenses, Berrios Martinez wrote in an email. Notices of violations are the final step before a construction site would receive a citation.

Five additional properties received multiple warnings about COVID-19 violations. If they violate guidelines one more time, they would be issued a notice of violation.

“DPS takes a progressive approach to enforcement choosing to educate, warn, and then issue a [notice of violation] after multiple infractions,” Barrios Martinez wrote in an email.

The data provided to Bethesda Beat do not say what any of the inspections or violations were for and have no information about what sites or companies violated COVID-19 guidelines.

Asked for more information about repeat offenders, Berrios Martinez declined. Asked for the department’s rationale, she wrote in an email that the Department of Permitting Services does “not see a need to release additional information.”

“Our primary role is to educate our partners. The overwhelming majority of our partners are very cooperative and take the necessary action to be in compliance,” Berrios Martinez wrote.

In April, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said the health department “will take appropriate actions” if workers on any site are found to be violating orders that prohibit gatherings of people. Gov. Larry Hogan at the time issued an executive order that allows local health departments to act if construction crews are not following social distancing guidelines intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the order, health departments can force any business “unable or unwilling to comply” to modify what it is doing or limit access to or from the facility, or they can take a more drastic step of closing down an operation.