Orange County is slated to be removed from the state coronavirus watchlist if trends hold steady, which could potentially lead to more business and school classroom reopenings.


Editor’s Note: As Orange County’s only nonprofit & nonpartisan newsroom, Voice of OC brings you the best, most comprehensive local Coronavirus news absolutely free. No ads, no paywalls. We need your help. Please, make a tax-deductible donation today to support your local news.


“Late yesterday we received confirmation from the State that August 19 was the first day that Orange County is below all of the State’s data monitoring thresholds. As a reminder, we need to maintain this status for three consecutive days in order to be removed from the County Monitoring List,” county health officer Dr. Clayton Chau said in a Thursday email. 

“As a reminder, we need to maintain this status for three consecutive days in order to be removed from the County Monitoring List. If this trend continues, Orange County will be off the Monitoring list on the State website on August 22 and our projected day 15 would then be September 6,” Chau said. 

After that 15-day period, schools across Orange County could reopen their classrooms. Those decisions for public schools will have to be made by the respective school boards. 

“Based on the K-12 Reopening Framework, once Orange County has been off of the monitoring list for 14 days all in-person instruction can resume,” Chau said. 

The Orange County Health Care Agency also announced the first round of primary schools that would be allowed to reopen even if the county stays on the watchlist, under a state waiver program. Secondary schools are still not allowed to reopen. 

“We have a dedicated team of public health professionals — nurses and doctors — on staff who have called schools to address any issues and remedy them to ensure they have a solid re-opening plan. We also support these school by offering COVID-19 testing for staff and students, and have stood up a full medical team internally as well as contracted with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County to ensure that we have pediatricians standing by to support them,” Chau said.

Just over 3,000 students are currently enrolled at those private elementary schools. 

Unlike schools, business reopening decisions are largely in the hands of state health officials. 

“Once a county is off the list, we are still subject to the Governor’s July 13th order with respect to sector closures. Indoor operations shall remain closed, even when a county is removed from the County Monitoring List, until the State Health Officer modifies the Order and authorizes re-opening,” the county health officer said. 

At a Wednesday news conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom told Voice of OC reopenings will be phased in by types of businesses in two to three-week intervals so health officials can monitor any potential outbreaks. 

“We do anticipate having a period of process/protocols that are put in place that have a time element that allows us the epidata that gives us more confidence in the background spread — the community spread of this disease,” said Newsom, in response to Voice of OC’s questions. 

He said a period of two to three weeks between business reopenings will be part of the updated plans, following discussions with epidemiologists nationwide, public health experts and local health officials.

The updated statewide reopening guidelines are slated to be released next week. 

“So we’re in the process of distilling … all of that back and forth, that engagement, that commentary and putting that into our guidelines and protocols. And, again, working with local health officials to make them a little bit more precise and get all of their feedback on the unique conditions in Orange County, Ventura County, LA county, San Diego County, any county in this state,” Newsom said.  

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

Reporter Nick Gerda contributed to this story. 

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.