Orange County Supervisors are urging County health officials to submit business reopening plans to the state so more establishments can reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend.
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The move comes on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Monday announcement that he is relaxing some guidelines that would allow for more businesses to open beyond curb-side pickup for retailers.
“He kind of like lowered the bar, but we still are not meeting the items he’s requiring us to do,” Supervisor Chairwoman Michelle Steel said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Steel said the County doesn’t have enough people tracing virus outbreaks, known as contact tracers.
OC Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said she’s not worried about getting enough contact tracers and the county’s on track to meet Newsom’s updated guidelines.
Quick said a seven-day snapshot ending Monday showed OC’s hospitalization was under a 5 percent increase for that week, meeting one of the relaxed guidelines.
“This is a point in time,” Quick said. “But these change every day.”
She said if numbers go up, it could keep OC from reopening more businesses.
As of Tuesday, the virus has killed 88 people out of 4,500 confirmed cases. There were also 229 people hospitalized, including 86 in intensive care units. Just over 83,000 tests have been conducted throughout the county, which is home to nearly 3.2 million people.
Supervisor Andrew Do said he’d like Quick to file those plans by Wednesday.
“I’m trying to get the county to reopen by this weekend,” Do said.
“Yes, with the caveat we don’t meet one of the measures, our plans won’t be posted by the state.” Quick said.
Do said OC should submit what it has and staff can try to patch it up later.
“I would prefer we try the best we can and supplement our plan,” Do said. “We want the county to reopen as soon as possible … so anything we can do to expedite it, please let us know.”
OC Supervisors, along with many local officials throughout the state, said Newsom’s original guidelines on reopening more businesses were too restrictive. Especially the guideline that stipulated no virus death for two weeks.
That benchmark is gone now.
Instead, counties must now have no more than 25 virus cases per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks before allowing more businesses to reopen. Counties can also show that less than 8 percent of residents tested positive for the virus over a one-week period.
Some residents and business owners pleaded with OC Supervisors to open up all businesses in the county and challenge Newsom on his orders.
But Supervisor Don Wagner, who’s been critical of Newsom’s orders in the past, said the County has to follow the orders.
Especially on the heels of two recent court cases challenging beach closures in Orange County.
“The other things that happened in the last week were decisions out of an Orange County Superior Court and a federal court and in both cases those courts went with the Governor and against the push to open quickly,” Wagner said.
Although Wagner said he’d like to see reopenings similar to other states, the court cases have set the law for the county.
“As much as I’d rather see what happened in Wisconsin, happen here … the law for this county was set locally in the courts in the last week — two courts — right here in Orange County,” he said.
University of California, Irvine professor and epidemiologist, Andrew Noymer, said officials need to cautiously and methodically reopen business sectors to monitor for any potential spikes in virus cases.
“I don’t think all these things should be done at the same time. So you want to do your hair salons? Fine do your hair salons. But then you have to wait 10 days and see what happens. Then you want to do restaurants next and see what happens.”
There has been an increased push to reopen restaurants in OC and the state from many officials in recent weeks, but Newsom has said the diner environment will look very different once they’re allowed to reopen.
Noymer said modifying the restaurant operations could work.
“I think restaurants with social distancing, half capacity, servers wearing PPE can be talked about — all the more so if we’re talking about an outdoor patio.”
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Digital Editor Sonya Quick contributed to this story. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sonyanews.