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Five Cayuga County businesses fined for violating COVID-19 face covering rules

Five Cayuga County businesses fined for violating COVID-19 face covering rules

Virus Outbreak Tennessee

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Tennessee's Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey confirmed the state's first case of the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Five Cayuga County businesses have agreed to pay $50 fines after the local health department found they violated COVID-19 face covering rules. 

Three of the establishments — China Wok, McDonald's on Genesee Street and Speedway on State Street — are in Auburn. The other two are Dunkin' Donuts in Weedsport and New York Pizzeria in Cato.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Cayuga County Board of Health approved consent orders signed by the businesses, which acknowledged the violations and agreed to pay a modest penalty. 

The fines followed inspections by the Cayuga County Health Department. The department found that the businesses weren't complying with the state face covering requirement. For businesses, including restaurants, workers must wear masks or face coverings at all times. 

An employee at Dunkin' Donuts in Weedsport wasn't wearing an "adequate face covering" while preparing baked goods in the rear of the restaurant. The face covering was in her pocket at the time of the inspection, according to the department's documentation. 

Two employees at New York Pizzeria in Cato weren't wearing face coverings when an inspector visited the restaurant. One employee who did not have a face covering engaged with customers, the inspector said, and the other worker was preparing food. After the inspector informed them of the mandate, the employees put on face coverings. 

There were two employees at China Wok who also weren't wearing face coverings. One of the employees was waiting on customers at the time of the inspection. Another employee wasn't properly wearing a mask as she prepared orders. 

Two employees at McDonald's on the city's west end weren't properly wearing masks, according to the inspector's report. One employee had their face covering below their nose while waiting on a customer. Another employee wasn't wearing the face covering while walking through the back of the restaurant. 

At Speedway, a cashier did not properly wear a face covering while waiting on four customers, including the health department inspector. A customer also wasn't wearing a face covering while failing to maintain social distancing between the cashier and the inspector. 

Until recently, the Cayuga County Health Department would educate businesses about the face covering mandate after the first complaint. If the department receives a second complaint, the business is inspected and a consent order could be issued. If the business commits repeat offenses, a board of health hearing is possible and they could face additional penalties. 

Eileen O'Connor, the health department's director of environmental health, said Tuesday that they will skip the educational phase of the process. One reason she cited is the increase in COVID-19 cases and the time constraints the department faces in responding to the outbreaks. 

"We think, at this point in the game, businesses should know, especially restaurants because we regulate restaurants and we have sent them emails regarding this, but we believe all businesses should know that masks are required," O'Connor said. 

So far, 12 Cayuga County businesses — mostly restaurants — have paid fines after violating the face covering mandate. 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at

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