While Orange County is pushing to reopen more businesses, including Disneyland, and classrooms, concerns from labor groups and parents linger over how the coronavirus guidelines will be enforced.
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OC Health Care Agency officials are still keeping virus outbreaks secret, as indoor operations resume at malls, movie theaters, restaurants, nail salons, gyms and churches.
Some residents have been voicing their concerns about potential virus outbreaks at various schools in Irvine.
Teachers in Irvine have written an open letter to the Irvine Unified School District to postpone a return to the classroom. Their letter has over 2,000 signatures, expressing concerns over infected students returning to schools and potentially spreading the virus.
Despite the concerns, the district is set to start reopening on Sept. 24.
OC health officer Dr. Clayton Chau said he’s still deciding whether to release the outbreak information or not.
“These are minors, so I have to have a conversation with the school district before I make any decision,” Chau said at Thursday’s weekly virus update.
“The school district is responsible for informing parents in the schools should there be a student or staff testing positive,” he said.
Some school districts in Orange County will start opening up next week after months of an intense debate over the return to schools that have divided the county. Classrooms will look different with spaced out desks and students and teachers wearing masks.
There is mounting opposition to try to delay reopening dates from teachers, parents, students and community members who feel districts are not ready or that it is not safe to do so.
It’s not just in Irvine.
There’s also pushback in the Newport-Mesa Unified School district, which will reopen classrooms Sept. 29. Residents are concerned with the district’s reopening plans, with critics calling the plans vague.
The Garden Grove Unified School District announced Wednesday it will not be reopening classrooms in October as originally planned and will remain online till further notice. The announcement was made on the heels of parents calling for more specific plans for reopening.
Fountain Valley School District and Cypress School District have set reopening dates for next week. Tustin Unified School District plans to reopen classrooms for younger students on Sept. 24.
Meanwhile, concerns from labor groups are mounting, especially as mayors from Anaheim, Buena Park and Garden Grove are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to release theme park reopening guidelines that could allow Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to reopen.
Orange County Labor Federation Executive Director Gloria Alvarado said the labor groups need to be in more discussions about various reopening plans.
“That’s one of the big challenges — we’re not getting the right information to protect each other. We want the government to come back and listen to labor,” Alvarado said in a phone interview “We want to go back to work, we definitely want to go back to work.
Although case rates have dropped around the county, some pockets in Anaheim, Buena Park, Garden Grove and Santa Ana still have more than double the county’s 3.9 positivity rate.
Alvarado said those working class neighborhoods could easily see cases spike if the county continues to take a light-handed approach to enforcing coronavirus guidelines.
“This is ridiculous,” Alvarado said. A”gain, it’s going to cost them more if numbers increase and dealing with emergency situations in the hot spots. I think it’s irresponsible of them not to acknowledge their responsibility of taking care of the consumer and the worker.”
OC saw cases spike in June, following the sweeping reopening of restaurants and other businesses beginning Memorial Day weekend.
Hospitalizations spiked in July, with over 700 people hospitalized at one point.
And deaths began to steadily climb after the hospitalization spike.
“I think we need to be realistic right — if it’s not the county, who the hell is going to be overseeing these things? This is why they should not turn their backs on what’s happening,” Alvarado said.
Since the pandemic began in March, the virus has killed 1,123 county residents out of 51,646 confirmed cases, including eight new deaths reported Friday, according to the county Health Care Agency.
For context, Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, according to state health data. According to those same statistics, the flu kills about 543 OC residents annually.
Hospitalizations remain steady, with 201 people in hospitals, including 64 in intensive care units.
Over 777,000 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people.
Alvarado said county public health officials still have not met with the federation to address their concerns and get input for reopening guidelines.
“The only interaction we had with them was basically when they sent us a flyer,” Alvarado said. “Again, we represent 93 unions in Orange County. This is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of workers.”
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.