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KCHD has responded to 58 local complaints since May 1 move to reopen businesses

The Health Department released the figures Wednesday afternoon.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department has received 58 complaints from the public about businesses and food establishments failing to follow COVID-19 guidelines since businesses began a soft reopening May 1, according to the department.

Thirty-six of the complaints were about restaurants and other kinds of places that serve food, according to figures released Wednesday afternoon by the Health Department.

Twenty-two were about other kinds of businesses.

Knox County and Knoxville began May 1 a soft reopening of restaurants and some other retail businesses, part of a phased and structured approach to restarting the economy amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

"For these complaints, the KCHD Environmental Health team has visited and/or called these establishments to provide education on the reopening guidance," according to spokeswoman Deborah Crouse.

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As department director, Dr. Martha Buchanan has the authority to issue cautionary notices to individuals and businesses that aren't complying with requirements such as making employees wear masks or failing to ensure tables are the proper distance apart.

Buchanan, however, said she can't fine people.

Amid frequent questions about compliance this week, Buchanan has said she's relying on people to "do the right thing" about following the rules. The consequences of failing to do that could involve a reversal of newly won freedoms, she said.

Buchanan said the department also has seen a backlash from some who don't want to comply with requests such as residents wearing a mask when they go out in public.

Bars still must remain closed; movie theaters also are still closed. Most courts are doing limited business but are expected to resume this month more operations.

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In April -- before the May 1 ease of restrictions -- the city of Knoxville warned eight businesses deemed non essential that they shouldn't be open. A stay-at-home order was in place at the time.

One business was fined $50 after multiple attempts to get it to comply, according to spokesman Eric Vreeland.