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Gov. Gavin Newsom is looking to issue another series of statewide health orders and step up enforcement as coronavirus trends continue to worsen in Orange County, along with the state. 


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“Over a 14-day period, we have seen a 43% increase in total hospitalizations in the state — a 37% increase in a two week period in the total number of ICU cases,” Newsom said at a Tuesday news conference in Contra Costa County. 

Newsom said he’s going to announce Wednesday changes to state health orders and potentially increasing enforcement of the orders. 

“Tomorrow we will be making some additional announcements on that dimmer switch we refer to,” Newsom said. “We will be making announcements on enforcement tomorrow.” 

OC’s hospitalizations have also been steadily increasing, along with the number of people in intensive care units. 

Newsom mandated June 18 that all Californians wear masks, on the heels of a raging debate over masks in Orange County

Since the mask order came down, no OC official has publicly stated if the mandate will be enforced. 

In another prong to Newsom’s approach, OC could lose some of the $2.5 billion in state money this upcoming budget year for failing to enforce statewide guidelines, like masks.

“We have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on applying the spirit and the letter of the law as it relates to health directives at the county level,” Newsom said. 

The money is typically used to fund much-needed programs, like food stamps and welfare programs through the OC Social Services Agency.  

Last month, OC Sheriff Don Barnes refused to enforce the local mask order from former health officer Dr. Nichole Quick. 

Barnes publicly told the county Board of Supervisors at their May 26 meeting that his deputies won’t enforce the mask order, but educate residents and businesses instead. 

“We are not the mask police nor do I intend to be the mask police,” Barnes told supervisors at the meeting which came before Newsom issued the statewide mask mandate.  

“So I know there is a ‘shall’ order. Our deputies always have … fallen back on education first to take appropriate measures. But we are not and have not dealt through these issues through enforcement. And I will direct my staff not to direct any enforcement towards the shall issue mask requirement,” Barnes said.

Barnes hasn’t publicly addressed OC Supervisors since Newsom’s mask mandate came down. 

Quick issued the order Memorial Day weekend, as restaurants and shopping centers were reopening. She resigned June 8 following a series of threats, including a death threat.

Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau took over as health director and on June 11 walked the order back to a strong recommendation. 

Newsom said some type of enforcement will be behind the mask mandate. 

“We think it’s one of the most important non-pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” the governor said. “We’ll be doing more to focus on enforcement in this state.” 

The virus trends are also worsening for OC’s neighbors. 

State health officials ordered all Los Angeles County and Riverside County bars to close due to the increasing spread, which is straining hospitalizations. 

Orange County has been placed on the state Department of Public Health’s watchlist for its upticks in virus trends.

Newsom said three additional counties will be added to that list within the next 24 hours, although he didn’t name them. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the shutdowns, physical distancing and, later, mask orders were enacted to slow the spread of the virus so hospitals don’t become overwhelmed with virus patients. 

Orange County still has 41% of its intensive care unit beds available — where people who are put on ventilators are placed, according to the OC Health Care Agency website. 

Newsom hinted at curbing indoor activities to help slow the virus spread and said that outdoor activities aren’t as risky. 

“So we’ll be looking at a lot of the current stay home orders … in relationship to indoor versus outdoor activities. That will come tomorrow,” he 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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