New COVID-19 mitigation measure could put some businesses on the chopping block

KOLD 10 p.m. - clipped version

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Governor Doug Ducey, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS), is responding to the surge in COVID-19 cases with stricter measures.

Wednesday afternoon, he announced a new “two strikes” rule.

Businesses won’t be able to rack up COVID-19 violation claims anymore. Going forward, if an establishment receives a “substantiated complaint”, they will get a warning from their local health department or AZDHS. One more; and they will be forced to shut down.

Sales are just picking up for the holidays at a small family-run business on Prince Road and Fairview Avenue after a year that’s taken slice out of their profits.

“We’ve been at this location 38 years,” said Barbara Koecheler. “We’ve always done our best to help the community, be there for the community, serve the community however we can. Sorry, I might get emotional. My dad pulls anywhere from 8 to 12-hour days.”

So, when the Sausage Shop heard the news about the two strikes move ... it cut deep.

“Now, people are sort of nitpicking. That might not be the right word, but I’m going to use it,” she said.

Koecheler says the Sausage Shop hasn’t received any financial help from the state because their small number of employees disqualifies them. However, the business has received complaints through the Pima County Health Department’s “community reporting portal”.

“We are doing our best just like everybody else, but I don’t see it when I run into Walmart or Target; I don’t see people treat people the way they treat us,” she said.

Koecheler feels small businesses are and easy target, and she’s worried about what the new measure could mean for her family’s shop and others.

“Because you don’t even know if the complaint is valid,” she said. “What if I was out of something and that person just said ‘Oh, I’m calling the health department?’ Or, what if there was a long line? [Ducey] is giving people an opportunity to literally just complain.”

C.J. Hamm, the Executive Chef at Saguaro Corners, agrees mitigation protocols have already hurt businesses financially.

“However, we have all been dealing with this in some form or another since March,” said Hamm. “So, I feel like if you can’t by now comply with new protocols to the point where you get multiple substantiated reports, maybe you shouldn’t be open. We are all brothers in arms, but we have all got to do our part to stop the spread.”

KOLD News 13 reached out to state officials for comment. We were told the measure is not retroactive, so it will just be based on verified claims from now on. AZDHS will be partnering with local health authorities and law enforcement to implement the two strikes rule.

We are expecting to learn more in the coming days.

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