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Orange County residents, along with all Californians, are now required to wear masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic after orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom effectively capped a raging debate over masks in OC.
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“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a news statement. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”
The California Department of Public Health updated its virus guidelines Thursday to reflect Newsom’s orders.
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease. California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing,” Newsom said.
All Californians are now required to wear masks in shops, at work and outside if they’re within six feet of another person.
Orange County had a mandatory mask order until June 11, when interim County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau walked it back to a strong recommendation.
Former health officer Dr. Nichole Quick issued the mandatory mask order late last month, right as state health officials approved the reopening of OC’s dine-in restaurants and shopping centers.
For weeks Chau, who’s also the Health Care Agency Director, and Quick faced pressing questions from County Supervisors over the mask order.
Supervisor Don Wagner criticized the lack of transparency about the order and how Quick issued it.
And Supervisor Michelle Steel publicly questioned the science behind the masks, along with numerous residents who lamented the order during public comment at board meetings.
Throughout all that questioning, Quick stood firm that the mask order would not be changed unless infection and hospitalization rates eased.
Quick abruptly resigned June 8, following a series of threats and protests in front of her house. Steel classified one of the threats as a death threat.
The Orange County Medical Association condemned the County’s handling of the mask situation.
“We think the mandate should have stayed in place and we came out very strongly the night after Dr. Quick resigned — understanding that she resigned because of the numerous personal threats on her and her family, which we find disgusting to say the least,” association executive director Jim Peterson said in a phone interview.
Various Orange County unions and the OC Labor Federation tried to hold a Tuesday press conference calling on County officials to reinstate the mask order during the coronavirus pandemic, but an anti-mask crowd shot down their efforts.
“We tried completing most of it, unfortunately folks were trying to shut us down. They were asking to be heard, is what they were saying. Evidently they didn’t want us to be heard. They were shoving and pushing us. They seemed like they were more interested in silencing us then having an actual discussion,” said federation project leader Luis Aleman.
The anti-mask crowd was at the Supervisors meeting and many spoke during public comment, thanking the Supervisors for pressuring Chau to walk the mask order back.
“We never pressured Dr. Chau,” said Steel, responding to public comments. “Don’t say we pressured him, we asked him questions.”
The virus has now killed 250 people, including seven new deaths today, out of nearly 9,300 confirmed cases, according to Thursday’s updated county numbers. There were also 345 people hospitalized, including 144 in intensive care units. Just under 4,500 people have recovered and nearly 200,000 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people.
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data: