Anaheim Scrambling to Get Coronavirus Outbreak Under Control

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

West Anaheim Medical Center in Anaheim on April 11, 2020.

Anaheim continues to see a large coronavirus outbreak with over 100 people dead with questions being raised on how the city can do more to help its most impacted residents on the central and west side of town.


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“Do we at this point have a city-based health plan? I know we’re doing testing, but when people get tested, what happens to them if they’re positive? Do we have a plan for their recovery … Do we have a plan to get our city healthy again so we can truly open back up?” Councilman Jose Moreno asked at the Tuesday City Council meeting. 

Interim City Manager Greg Garcia said city staff is working with the county, noting the effort is regional. 

“We’ll continue doing what we’re doing which is to work with the county to get the resources and information out to those neighborhoods,” Garcia said. “I know the county’s also working on isolation rooms for families who are in dense housing situations.” 

Many West and Central Anaheim residents are blue-collar workers living in overcrowded housing situations and haven’t had the option of working from home during the pandemic, increasing the chances of catching the virus and quickly spreading it throughout their communities. 

Beginning Wednesday, the Anaheim Convention Center will be used as a COVID-19 testing site and is aimed at conducting at least 600 tests a day and eventually reaching 1,200 a day. The testing program is slated to run for at least 30 days. 

“Really it’s just about education, education, education and working with those local nonprofits who have connections in these communities,” Garcia said. 

Latino Health Access, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit community group, has partnered with the Orange County Health Care Agency to help bring mobile testing sites to the county’s hardest hit cities: Anaheim and Santa Ana. 

The group, which has 40 community workers living in working-class Latino neighborhoods throughout the county, will also provide testing at Anaheim High School on Wednesday. 

Anaheim had 4,514 confirmed cases as of Tuesday, including 102 virus deaths. 

Two city zip codes, one in West Anaheim and another in Central Anaheim, had over 1,100 confirmed cases. 

Moreno, who lives near downtown in the central part of the city, was the only council member who expressed concern Tuesday over the rising cases in certain parts of the city. 

Councilwoman Lucille Kring blamed the increase on last month’s protests, which stemmed from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. 

“People were shouting, screaming and chanting,” Kring said. “No social distancing.” 

Moreno countered Kring’s protest statement. 

“If you look at the zip code data, councilwoman, every zip code is increasing … so it didn’t just happen downtown with the protests. It’s increasing on the far west side, there weren’t protests in the far west side,” he said. 

Kring shot back, “I’m not going to let you get away with this, you were there at the protests.” 

“You were mixing with other protestors who were not wearing masks and social distancing, so all that is reality,” she said. 

Most of the protestors wore masks and some offered hand sanitizer to people throughout the demonstrations. 

Kring also claimed the coronavirus deaths are going down. 

“The death rate, people dying from this, has been decreasing,” she said.

County data shows the opposite is true: Virus deaths have been steadily increasing for months. 

University of California, Irvine, epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said deaths have increased by about 2% a day in the county over the past seven days and the case-to-death ratio is a bad metric because infections are happening faster than deaths. 

“The infection rate and the case fatality rate are not the same number … there’s going to be more infections by the time this is done than there are going to be cases, so the point is kind of a wash. You don’t get to magically call this a nothingburger,” Noymer said in a Tuesday phone interview. 

Kring also said she supported the Orange County Board of Education’s recommendation to resume in-person classrooms in the fall semester, without masks and physical distancing. 

“The kids, even though some of them are getting sick now, they are the least vulnerable to this disease. And most of them, when they get it they are asymptomatic and they do not spread it,” Kring said. 

But interim Orange County Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau has consistently said asymptomatic people spread the disease and has continuously called on residents to wear masks because of it. 

Kring also took aim at Gov. Gavin Newsom for halting Disneyland’s reopening plans. 

“I think it’s criminal that the governor shut down Disneyland’s opening. They opened in China and they’re doing fine, they opened in Florida and they’re doing fine,” she said. 

Kring didn’t specify if she was referring to the Shanghai or the Hong Kong Disneyland. 

Hong Kong Disneyland will shut down Wednesday due to a spike in virus cases and Shanghai’s theme park remains open after two months. 

Florida reported its highest number of deaths at 132 on Tuesday.

NBC reported Tuesday that nearly 20% of new cases reported from around the world came from California, Florida and Texas.  

Meanwhile, Moreno said he wants to look at financial relief for small property owners using federal and state bailout money. 

City officials are looking to continue funding nonprofits, food pantries and rental assistance programs with that cash.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio