When the County cannot provide the needed leadership in Orange County, it’s time for cities to take the lead.  It has been about a month and a half since we received the stay in place order.  This order didn’t come from our OC Health Officer who seemed to be forced to change her stance.  It came from the state.  I am a strong proponent of local control, but sometimes, we lose that right by our actions, or in the case of Orange County, our inactions.

About a week ago, the Governor shared that California was ready to move towards Stage 2 of the 4 Stage plan to re-open.  This gradual move into Stage 2 includes expanded retail with curbside pickup and associated manufacturing and supply chains.  Opening with modification includes bookstores, clothing stores, florists and sporting goods.  Not included at this time are offices, seated dining at restaurants and shopping malls.   This gradual move comes from accomplishing Stage 1, consisting of six metrics.  However, according to the OC Health Care Agency, of the six key metrics, we are still lacking in PPE inventory, contact tracing capability (only 75 contact tracers of the 465 required) and public health guidance (the County does not have proper policies in place).  So why did our Supervisors think it was fit to allow businesses to open up? And why do they believe that changing the requirements to meet their needs is acceptable?

Irvine has done a tremendous job consistently setting policies ahead of the trend and continues to do so in a bipartisan effort.  Like other cities in OC, we want to move towards Stage 2 for our city and help our businesses and families that have been struggling during this crisis.  However, we need 3 things from our County Supervisors:

  1. Follow the Governor’s guidelines. The County should work effectively to achieve the 6 key metrics and provide guidelines that match the state’s recommendations.  We cannot afford to have a second wave of this pandemic hit our county.
  2. Expand testing for everyone who wants a test, regardless of symptoms, not just essential workers. Asymptomatic carriers are a serious concern.  We need the County to work in partnership with cities to approve testing centers in a timely manner so cities can begin the process of providing drive-thru testing for their residents.  At last night’s City Council meeting, my colleagues and I approved a drive-thru testing site at no cost for all our residents.  The cost for providing this necessary testing is coming out of our city funds.  We have taken this step because we are not seeing leadership from our County Supervisors.
  3. Distribute OC’s $554M in CARES Act Funding to cities, as 31 of Orange County’s 34 Mayors have requested. These funds will provide much needed resources for cities to continue providing food delivery to our seniors, public safety measures undertaken in response to COVID-19, and disinfection of public areas and other facilities.  In addition, these funds would help develop robust programs for rental assistance for our residents and grants to our small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.  I have to thank Supervisor Wagner for trying to support distribution of $75 million among the cities towards grants for small businesses, but the motion did not pass because Supervisors Do, Bartlett and Chaffee do not believe the cities should receive any of the funding.

The County is expected to review their revised budget and costs associated with COVID-19 on May 19th.  It will be of value to see how they will justify the hoarding of the $554 million.  The mechanisms of running and maintaining the county and supporting the cities during these trying times are there, it’s the will from our Supervisors that’s missing.  All I ask of our Supervisors is, if you can’t find yourself to do what’s right for the people you serve, at least give us, the cities, the opportunity to do so for our community members.

Farrah N. Khan was elected to the Irvine City Council in 2018 and is also the Chair of the Great Park Board.

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