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San Francisco-Based Yelp Allowing Customers To Complain About COVID Violations

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/CNN) -- As COVID cases continue to soar at an alarming rate across California, San Francisco-based Yelp has added the ability for its users to post complaints after observing coronavirus violations at businesses and restaurants.

The San Francisco Bay Area and other regions of the state remain under strict restrictions as new COVID cases overwhelm local health care providers and hospitals.

California's coronavirus catastrophe reached a staggering new level on Monday as Johns Hopkins University data showed the nation's most populous state has recorded more than 30,000 deaths since the pandemic started nearly a year ago.

Deaths have exploded since a COVID-19 surge began in October. It took California six months to record its first 10,000 deaths. But in barely a month, the total rose from 20,000 to 30,000.

Officials with the crowd-sourced review platform said they were expanding their COVID-19 section on profile pages to include information about enforcement of social distancing and if staff are wearing masks with new indicators activated by user reports.

Yelp said Tuesday that the changes aim to "instill confidence in consumers to continue supporting local businesses."

Yelp stated that a "number of criteria must be met" before it warns people, including complaints from multiple Yelp users that are logged in from their accounts. The company said that feedback from the previous 28 days will be used and complaints will be evaluated daily to keep the warnings accurate and current.

Users will see green check mark if the Covid-19 recommendations are being followed or an orange question mark if not. Yelp will also indicate if complaints are mixed with a phrase such as "Social distancing might not be enforced according to some users" or "Staff might not wear masks according to some users."

Yelp will also start indicating whether restaurants sell meal kits, have contactless menus and have heated or outdoor dining seating -- features that have soared in popularity during the pandemic. Interest in businesses that have updated their Covid-19 sections increased more than 40% between September and December 2020, Yelp said.

Last year, the website also added warnings on businesses that were accused of "overtly racist actions." Reports of businesses engaging in alleged racist behavior on Yelp increased last spring and summer, when the police killing of George Floyd sparked protests across the United States.

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