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Nothing ticks off a compliant follower of coronavirus precautions quite like the pandemic “nose commando.”

People who wear masks below their noses are a common target in calls received by a state-run hotline.

Since March, the Massachusetts 2-1-1 “snitch line,” as some call it, has taken more than 200,000 complaints about people who risk transmitting COVID-19 by not following rules to contain the spread of the disease, according to a story in the Boston Herald.

Other common complaints: gatherings that exceed the proper number in the state’s current reopening phase, campus parties, crowded ferries and even a neighbor seen to be spitting.

Aside from providing alerts about violations, callers have taken aim at the Charlie Baker administration and the governor himself, with at least one caller saying steps to curtail the virus amount to “treason.”

The anonymous 2-1-1 hotline is one of several run by state agencies that invite whistleblower tips.

Separately, the state works to monitor compliance with pandemic safety orders through the COVID-19 Enforcement and Intervention Team. That group has reportedly inspected 5,000 businesses in at least 75 Massachusetts communities.

The team has been dispatched to communities like Chelsea, Lawrence and Lynn that have been hot spots for new infections.

Other inspections have been conducted by the Massachusetts State Police, the Alcoholic Beverage and Control Commission, the Department of Labor Standards and the Division of Professional Licensure, according to Baker’s office.

Virus safety violations in workplaces can be reported to the Attorney General’s Office by calling its Fair Labor hotline at 617-727-3465.

The enforcement team has provided audio alerts in several languages that municipalities can use, through robocalls, to request public compliance with safety measures. 

Larry Parnass can be reached at and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass, investigations editor, joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and CommonWealth Magazine.


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