The big challenge of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions despite strong opposition

State agencies have already conducted 14-thousand inspections of businesses and discovered...
State agencies have already conducted 14-thousand inspections of businesses and discovered 1,700 violation. But there's debate about what should happen next.((Source: Scott Pace/KSLA))
Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 7:09 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Coronavirus cases are spiking in nearly every state across the country, yet only 34 states have mask mandates. That list does include Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas.

It’s not difficult to spot a person or two, or even more who refuse to wear a mask for one reason or another, that’s not health related.

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control say they have already conducted 14,000 inspections of businesses and discovered 1,700.

The question then becomes what are the punishments for violations.

“We have not issued any criminal or civil penalties. We have found tremendous success in managing this mission the same way we’ve managed the fire code enforcement throughout the state,” said Louisiana state Fire Marshal Butch Browning.

Browning explains this all boils down to informing business owners about any violations and educate them about the restrictions, which he says goes a very long way in getting compliance.

But make no mistake, Browning did say there have been a handful of uncooperative businesses in the state. So, when the fire marshals left, other inspectors came right in behind them.

“And when their respective regulatory licensure folks came, whether it be ATC or Louisiana Department of Health, when they came behind us to try and convince compliance and there was just total defiance, you know, those permits were pulled,” said Browning.

Business owners and managers say they’ve had to adapt to a near constant vigilance.

Lacey Ates, the manager at Bergeron’s Boudin & Cajun Meats on East Kings Highway in southeast Shreveport, gives just one example.

“Wiping down tables every 20 minutes. We sanitize all the doors and handles every 20 minutes. That’s something that I require all the girls to do all day, every day, no matter what. No matter if someone’s touched it or not. I want it wiped down.”

When it comes to following COVID-related restrictions at Louisiana businesses, Browning gives owners and the public an A-plus in their efforts.

He credits that fact, at least in part, to help explain why Louisiana is not seeing the same intensity in the latest coronavirus wave.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve approached this from the standpoint of working with people and educating the people. That’s why it’s successful,” said Browning.

It’s the age old model of motivating people using the ‘carrot or the stick.’ It’s a metaphor for the use of a combination of reward (the carrot) versus punishment (the stick).

Browning says he is a true believer that using the carrot usually works much better, especially here in Louisiana.

“The people that I know, you know, born and raised in this state, and knowing these people, Louisiana people will do anything if you show the respect and you explain things to them. And that’s exactly how we do it.”

Browning’s office released inspection and violation numbers locally. In Caddo Parish, inspectors discovered 62 violations, while in Bossier Parish 19 violations were found and all corrected on-site.

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