Orange County officials aren’t considering a countywide curfew following a series of largely peaceful protests against police brutality over the past week, during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we have been very fortunate that the protests in Orange County have been free of the kinds of incidents that are in other large urban areas,” County CEO Frank Kim said at a Thursday news conference.
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Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Santa Ana have all had curfews at some point this week when demonstrations came to their cities. Earlier this week, Los Angeles County enacted a countywide curfew, but has since backed off.
“From a county perspective we don’t have any plans at this time to enforce curfew, but obviously it is something that’s available to us, if needed,” he said.
Kim said county officials main fear at this point is a spike in virus cases because of the protests, which are also happening as businesses, like dine-in restaurants, begin to reopen.
“I think from a county perspective, we’re always concerned when we see large group gatherings. And I think it’s a real balance between preserving the rights of individuals to express their First Amendment rights, as well as a desire and a request from the county that individuals do their best to maintain a six-feet of social distancing,” Kim said.
University of California, Irvine epidemiologist, Andrew Noymer, said the protests might not cause a big spike in virus cases since many of the demonstrators wore the County mandated cloth masks.
“We may be seeing increases or not, but it’s going to be hard to pin it all on the protests. Remember, the protests are outside,” Noymer said in a Wednesday interview. “But I’m really more worried about crowded indoor restaurants, than I am the protests.”
Below is a list of all upcoming protests.
Noymer said he personally won’t go to restaurants during the pandemic.
“For me, I’m not willing to take that risk. But I’m not saying that other people shouldn’t, because with an outdoor patio and 50 percent capacity, it’s possible to do it safely,” Noymer said.
The virus has now killed 165 people out of 6,783 confirmed cases, according to updated County numbers. There were also 293 people hospitalized, including 129 in intensive care units. Nearly 2,900 people have recovered and nearly 145,000 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people.
Since mid-April, virus hospitalizations have been steadily increasing.
As the county continues to open up, there’s also a widening debate on masks.
At Tuesday’s Counter Supervisors meeting, OC Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau and Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick defended Quick’s mandatory mask order.
Quick hasn’t been at a Supervisors meeting since issuing the mask order, although she phone into Tuesday’s meeting. She wasn’t at Thursday’s news conference either. She normally is at both. Officials earlier last week announced that Quick had received death threats.
On Thursday ,Chau also wasn’t at the weekly news conference.
Lilly Simmering, assistant director of the Health Care Agency, was instead at the news conference.
She said the mask order won’t be lifted until the County’s numbers begin to look better.
“Should our numbers start to look better, we will have that conversation,” Simmering said.
“This virus, again, has no vaccine,” Simmering said. “So the only thing that works are the prevention measures. And the mask is a prevention measure.”
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Digital Editor Sonya Quick and Deputy Digital Editor Caitlin Bartusick contributed to this story. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.