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The Newport Beach city council members unanimously voted to end their local emergency at their Tuesday meeting after more than a year into the pandemic.
Many residents wrote into the council in support of terminating the local emergency.
Newport Beach ended its emergency the same day County Supervisors decided to keep the countywide emergency so they can get federal reimbursement for pandemic efforts.
“We’re one of the first cities in Orange County to give up this emergency power and I think that no one wants to be the first when it comes to these types of things.”Councilman Noah Blom
The decision also comes a week after the state’s reopening and will also mean an end to the moratorium on issuing new short-term rental permits put in place last year.
Outdoor dining permits were extended by the council earlier this month at their June 8 meeting.
During that meeting Councilman Will O’Neill asked about the process of ending the state of emergency before the city’s planned July 4th parades and requested it be brought before the council for discussion.
“I’m having a tough time believing that the city of Newport Beach would host parades, while in a declared state of emergency on the basis of a condition of extreme peril to public safety. That seems rather inconsistent,” O’Neill said at the June 8 meeting.
Newport Beach council members ratified a local emergency in March of last year giving the city access to state and federal resources and money to help recuperate funds spent during the pandemic.
It is unclear if their decision will limit their ability to get more federal or state funds related to the pandemic, according to the staff report on the agenda.
“Isn’t it critical that this be fully understood before the Council rushes into adopting a resolution that might prevent the City from receiving relief it would otherwise be eligible for?” questioned Newport Beach Watchdog Jim Moser in a written comment to the council.
Moser reiterated his concerns at the meeting.
City manager Grace Leung said the city has received the first installment of their American Rescue Plan Act federal relief funds and council members will soon decide how to spend the money.
“The main concern we have is if there are additional expenses, for example, like additional vaccination clinics, past this point of time … we don’t know if we would not get reimbursed for those,” she said.
O’Neill said the city can not continue to declare an emergency when there is no longer an “extreme peril” situation to address the pandemic.
“If we cannot make those findings, we should not go seek money based on false findings. It’s not a complicated issue,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting.
He also said the citywide emergency is over.
“It kind of comes back to that issue of: should governments have an emergency beyond the time when the emergency exists? And if the only answer is money they’re doing it for a horrific reason.”
OC Supervisors Keep Countywide State of Emergency
Meanwhile, County supervisors decided not to end their state of emergency at their Tuesday meeting, instead voting to tie the countywide emergency with that of the state automatically continuing the emergency until California officially terminates their own.
“Even if we were to cancel this health order, it would make no change in people’s life, the state guidances will still apply. In fact, all we can do is take the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot by being denied funding,” said Andrew Do, Chairman of the Board.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s health officer, said ending the state of emergency in the county would impact the financial support they get to help recover from the pandemic when questioned by Supervisor Don Wagner.
“So our ability to help people would change. Their ability to go about their lives would not change, correct?” Wagner questioned.
“That’s correct,” Chau said.
The decision was made by county officials despite residents in the county demanding them to put an end to the state of emergency for about 45 minutes during public comments.
“We are not in a state of emergency anymore. Federal funding is not a reason to keep the emergency going. Please stop this,” one person said during public comments.
For months, people have been showing up to supervisors meetings demanding that the county end the emergency declaration.
Chau said about 59% of people in OC have been vaccinated.
“There seems to be an agreement that to achieve herd immunity you must at least have 70% of your population vaccinated,” he said at the meeting.
One Newport Beach resident pointed out the County’s continuation of the state of emergency to the city council.
“The county is a healthcare agency. There are different standards for them,” O’Neill responded. “Cities are not.”
Councilwoman Diane Dixon said if there is another virus wave or national crisis, the city can once again declare a local emergency.
“This is the right path to take. If there’s some cataclysmic event, we will deal with it responsibly,” she said.
“I think we’re on the path for liberation.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.