Buena Park, Fullerton and Irvine became the latest Orange County cities to declare states of emergency Tuesday in order to unlock state and federal emergency funding amid the novel Coronavirus outbreak.

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Irvine closed off City Hall to the public beginning Wednesday, following Anaheim. City employees will be working at both city halls to keep vital services going, including utilities, trash pick up and emergency services. Buena Park also closed city hall to the public.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Fullerton City Manager Ken Domer said a city hall closure might be announced Wednesday, along with the shutdown of the library. Domer also said he’s been speaking with all OC city managers. 

The emergency declarations came within hours of the OC Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick’s order to close all bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. 

The order bans “All public and private gatherings of any number of people, including at places of work, occurring outside a single household or living unit.”

[Click here for the full order.]

The order caused a wave of confusion. 

County spokeswoman Molly Nichelson issued another release within a few hours of Quick’s order in a clarification effort. 

“Today’s order … is NOT an order to shelter in place. It is not a lockdown. It is important for all Orange County businesses to remain open while practicing social distancing consistent with the Governor’s guidance,” reads the release. “Unfortunately, the order as written caused wide-spread confusion.” 

Voice of OC is bringing you the latest on Coronavirus in Orange County.

Meanwhile, some councilmembers in Anaheim and Fullerton are looking to protect residents and businesses from rents and evictions because of the lost wages due to the spreading virus, which the World Health Organization considered a pandemic last week. 

Fullerton Councilman Ahmad Zahra proposed an eviction moratorium for businesses and residents. 

“Rent is coming up April 1. These are issues we know people are struggling right now … some people don’t have a paycheck anymore,” said Zahra during Tuesday’s meeting. 

Fullerton staff are researching Zahra’s proposed eviction moratorium and he hopes to schedule a meeting before the beginning of next month. 

Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno said he wants the city to look into helping with rents.

“Is there a direct line for local residents experiencing loss of work or income for rental assistance… is there something in Orange County or something we can set up?” Moreno said. 

City staff said it would likely have to be scheduled on a future agenda as a policy idea. 

He also asked if the city now has the ability to block evictions because of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Monday executive order calling for renter protections. Newsom declared a statewide emergency March. 4

“We’d have to research that. Obviously, when a state of emergency is declared, it does broaden the authority of local jurisdictions, but it’s something we’d have to look into,” Anaheim City Attorney Rob Fabela told Moreno. 

At Fullerton’s Tuesday meeting, Domer also said staff will have to research Newsom’s executive order. 

“What the state does to us often is say ‘Hey, here’s a great idea’ … then they push it down on us,” Domer said. 

The overnight parking ban in Fullerton will not be enforced, along with other minor infractions, in an effort to keep police officers free to respond to city and countywide emergencies.  

“We are focusing on life-saving matters only,” police Chief Robert Dunn said. “We’re not issuing citations for [overnight parking]. We’re being incredibly selective … I’ve asked the supervisors to reach out to the caller and explain the situation.” 

Shortly before Fullerton Councilmembers began discussing the city’s next moves Tuesday, Irvine declared its state of emergency without hosting a public meeting, closing city hall to the public beginning Wednesday and didn’t give a reopening date. 

Buena Park Councilmembers voted in held an emergency meeting Tuesday to declare an emergency and close city hall to the public. 

Most Irvine employees will be sent home, except those needed to maintain “essential services,” according to a press release from the city. 

The front desk at the Irvine Police Station across from city hall will remain open, but residents are encouraged to call before they drive to the station. 

City Manager John Russo also said that the new measures will not impact services offered by the Irvine Police Department, building inspections, and code enforcement. 

The Irvine city council will have to ratify the state of emergency at their next public meeting according to the proclamation, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday Mar. 24. Unless a special or emergency meeting is called. 

The city also announced the Irvine Animal Care Center would be closed to the public on an appointment only basis, and after school and spring break programs were canceled until further notice. 

Local concerns are mounting about the hit the economy’s going to take with sweeping business closures and sudden loss of income. 

Fullerton Councilwoman Jan Flory said many restaurant and bar workers are now without paychecks because of the sweeping closures. 

“There is no cover for those people at this time,” Flory said. 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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