Orange County residents won’t be evicted for failing to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic due to a new state law banning evictions until February next year, but people will still have to pay their rent in full by then. 

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“What we have is new eviction protections,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a Wednesday news conference. “No evictions for rent nonpayment through February 2021.” 

The law comes as OC is facing a 12.3 unemployment rate, according to the state employment department

Many OC residents have economically suffered due to the sweeping business closures earlier this year in order to slow the spread of the virus so hospitals didn’t get flooded with virus patients. 

UC Irvine economist Christopher Schwarz said businesses and the economy would have suffered even if the state didn’t shut down businesses. 

“You essentially had a hard stop of the economy,” Schwarz said in a Tuesday phone interview. “If you look at Sweden, who didn’t shut down the economy, their GDP dropped like Norway, who did shut down their economy.” 

Numerous food drives have been routinely held throughout the OC. 

In the spring,  so many residents showed up to a food drive at the Honda Center that Anaheim police officers had to run traffic control to deal with the congestion on Katella Avenue. 

The new law also has some foreclosure protections for homeowners and landlords with four or less residential properties, according to guidelines

“We’re not only supporting renters, we also want to be sensitive to the needs of small property owners,” Newsom said. “They have a mortgage they took out and they rely on you, as a tenement, to make payments, so they can make their mortgage payments.” 

Newsom also said the state’s spending $600 million to buy hotels, motels and apartments to help get homeless people off the streets. 

“Let me just make this crystal clear. As a former mayor, the state hasn’t been focused on the issue of homelessness,” Newsom said. “It’s been the focus of mayors, primarily, and county officials that have been burdened by this challenge.” 

The state’s motel buying program comes as Orange County is buying three motels to house homeless people

Officials won’t say where the motels are, but the location “may be disclosed after the negotiations are completed or if required through the closed session process,” said Mechelle Haines, Orange County Community Resources spokesman. 

Newsom said the state will hold county officials accountable to help buy the motels, using  state money. 

“This is not one of those open ended things where you hear of an initiative that never gets done,” Newsom said. 

There will also be “accountability at the local level. Acquire these units by the end of the year,” he said.  

Since the pandemic began in March, the virus has killed 1,007 OC residents out of 49,142 confirmed cases.  

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 have been holding steady for a couple weeks, with 295 people hospitalized, including 89 in intensive care units. 

Dr. Paul Yost, an anesthesiologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said the overall situation has improved.

“We used to be up around 90 patients or so and now we’re down around 30 patients in house and we used to be as high as 12,13 intubated patients. Now  we’re down to single-digit patients,” Yost said in a Wednesday phone interview. 

“Although our numbers have fallen, they seem to have plateaued. They aren’t continuing to drop — they’re staying at a certain level. It would be nice to see them drop further,” Yost said. 

Nearly 665,000 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:

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

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