Orange County officials won’t enforce business closure rules during the novel coronavirus pandemic as a wave of protests to reopen the economy have been mounting and Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to allow some businesses starting Friday.
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“We are not going to enforce either beach closures or those business closures if they don’t run afoul of the county’s guidelines. And if the governor would like to bring the CHP out or call out the National Guard, the Governor can do what he wants to do,” Supervisor Don Wagner said at a Monday news conference.
“It’s time for them to live their lives,” Wagner said.
Last week, Newsom singled out OC and only ordered beaches be closed in the county, as opposed to a statewide closure.
But at a Monday news conference, he praised Laguna Beach and San Clemente for their beach use policies, which are based on “active use.”
That means there’s no sunbathing, laying out a beach towel or hanging out next to a cooler at the beach.
Essentially, beaches can only be used for exercise, including swimming, surfing, jogging and other activities involving movement.
Although Newsom announced reopening plans are coming Friday, he avoided Orange County’s refusal to enforce his orders during his daily press conference on Monday.
“As early as the end of this week, you will have the capacity as a retailer … to begin to reopen for pick up. Clothing, book stores, toys, sporting good stores, florists,” Newsom said.
He did say some unnamed businesses and counties have pushed back and began reopening too early.
“I know that there’s some businesses that are not waiting for these announcements,” Newsom said, adding they have “punitive” measures like pulling liquor licenses.
Newsom also hinted at reopening beaches soon.
Meanwhile, as of the latest county updates, the virus has killed 57 people out of 2,819 confirmed cases in Orange County. There are also 169 people hospitalized, including 52 people in intensive care units.
Nomad’s Canteen in San Clemente reopened over the past weekend, with sit down dining and bar service. News reports indicate virtually no one was wearing a mask and there was a lack of the CDC-recommended six-foot physical distance between people to help curb virus spread.
Although the bar was going to be fined by the county HealthCare Agency, Wagner said it won’t be.
“It is my understanding that HCA will be rescinding its warning notice or its threat to pull the license of Nomad’s and will, going forward, try to more rigorously adhere to the Board’s direction and I certainly hope they do that going forward,” Wagner said.
Last week, County Supervisors adopted guidelines for businesses looking to reopen.
“These guidelines do not supersede any conflicting or more restrictive orders issued by local governments, the State of California, or the Federal Government,” read the guidelines.
Yet Newsom’s stay home order explicitly bars restaurants, nightclubs and bars from opening and those types of businesses aren’t expected to open any time soon.
The Governor said the state Alcoholic Beverage Control may pull licenses if businesses don’t comply with the orders, but he didn’t name any businesses or counties.
“It’s not a shot across the bow, it’s not a way of expressing animus and angst. It’s just an expression of a fact that there are many mechanisms to enforce [the orders],” Newsom said.
The questions of reopening sections of the economy, or continuing to hunker down has become politically divided.
Many Republicans are condemning Newsom, calling his moves overreach, while many Democrats are praising the stay home orders and beach closures.
The novel coronavirus is also making its way through 12 nursing homes, with most of the outbreaks in North Orange County, killing 17 residents and one nursing home employee.
Public Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick has repeatedly said the nursing homes are one of the primary focus areas for health officials and the County has created a “mobile strike force” medical team to show up and test everyone at the home — residents and staff — when an outbreak happens.
“This is one of our top priorities as far as the COVID response in Orange County. Right now we continue almost daily interaction with a number of our skilled nursing facilities,” Quick said at Monday’s news conference
County officials define a nursing home virus outbreak as two or more positive coronavirus cases within two weeks.
“Our staff — and these are highly trained infectious diseases doctors and staff — will go out and do an assessment and decide who needs to be tested,” Quick said, adding all residents are tested when an outbreak happens.
The CDC has warned the virus hits elderly people harder than other demographics. People with existing medical conditions like asthma also have greater chances of being killed by the virus.
Statewide, the virus has killed 2,171 out of 52,197 confirmed cases as of Sunday, according to the latest available data from the California Department of Public Health.
Nationwide, the virus has killed over 65,700 people out of 1.12 confirmed as of Sunday, according to CDC counts.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
Digital Editor Sonya Quick contributed to this story. You can reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @sonyanews.
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