Residents in Southern states use Facebook to track businesses' COVID-19 compliance

Some residents in states that have more lax COVID-19 safety measures have been forming Yelp-like social media groups to review the infection control compliance of local businesses and schools, Kaiser Health News reported Oct. 21.

The lack of government enforcement of COVID-19 safety measures in some states is forcing citizens to take matters into their own hands, according to Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, and Arthur Caplan, PhD, a bioethics professor at New York University’s medical school.

"You can see here that people are taking action collectively, essentially replicating what governments should be doing, but in a private fashion out of sheer desperation," Mr. Ahmed said.

Alabama-based Facebook group "Mask Up Huntsville" has about 6,800 members. The group tracks local businesses' mask compliance, as Alabama has no indoor mask mandate. Members also share anecdotes about COVID-19 safety guidelines in place at local physician and dentist's offices. Moderators ensure political statements do not enter the group.

Similarly, Tennessee mother Amanda Jamison Gillen created a Facebook group called "Knoxville Parents Against Covid" so parents can share information about positive cases in their children's schools. She said the group was created in response to the lack of information parents were receiving from schools.

In Georgia, Melissa Lee has taken over her late husband's 1,500-member Facebook group "Athens, GA Mask Grades 2.0." The group includes information about businesses' social distancing practices, outdoor service availability, vaccination requirements and percentages of masked employees and patrons.

Ms. Lee said the group may have more of a positive effect than simply informing community members. After a member posted about a local grocery store that didn't enforce a mask mandate in August, the store posted a statement on Facebook saying that it would follow all locally mandated guidelines "effective immediately." 


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