Yorba Linda and San Juan Capistrano officials are the latest to rid their cities of the local Coronavirus emergency proclamations they put in place in March of last year.

Since the statewide reopening last month, a sense of normalcy has returned to cities across Orange County — various city councils are now deciding whether to continue their local proclamations or give up their emergency powers and potentially forfeit federal and state funds. 

Both Yorba Linda and San Juan Capistrano city council members voted unanimously to end the emergencies at their respective Tuesday meetings without much discussion.

One Yorba Linda resident spoke in support of ending the emergency proclamation.

“I’m very glad to see the termination to the local emergency declared last March 2020. As we move forward, though, we need to analyze our reaction to this particular crisis that we face. I believe that we overreacted on many levels, particularly in this state,” she said.

St. Jude Heritage Medical in Yorba Linda checks a patient through their drive through setup on the west side of their building on March 19, 2020. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Yorba Linda and San Juan Capistrano first declared a state of emergency on March 16, 2020. 

The proclamation allowed city managers to make executive decisions in order to follow the state’s emergency response. It also lets cities tap into state and federal funding more easily, according to the agenda reports.

“It’s good to have that crown off of City Manager (Ben) Siegel’s head finally,” said San Juan Capistrano Councilman Howard Hart at Tuesday’s meeting.

These decisions follow a few Orange County cities that recently voted to ditch their emergency proclamations.

[Read: Yorba Linda, San Juan Capistrano Look to Cancel Their COVID Emergencies]

Vaccination efforts have slowed to a crawl throughout the Southern California region, with roughly 56% of Orange County residents fully vaccinated.

COVID positivity rates are also increasing as the Delta variant spreads across Southern California — leading to unvaccinated people becoming hospitalized at much higher rates than vaccinated people.

This past Saturday neighboring Los Angeles County reinstated its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status. LA County has a test positivity rate of 3.8%, while Orange County has a 4.8% rate, according to state data.

Over 5,100 people have died from the virus, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Newport Beach was one of the first cities to cancel.

One Councilman said it would be difficult to maintain a local emergency as the economy reopens and tourism returns following months of closures.

“Far too many elected officials are keeping their cities in states of emergency while also posting pictures of themselves in crowds over the Fourth of July. Credibility in crisis matters, and these actions erode public confidence.”

Will O’Neill, Newport Beach City Councilman via text message

Earlier this month, Fullerton and Huntington Beach City Council members unanimously voted to end their local emergencies. Huntington Beach officials are expected to finalize their decision early next month.

The same day Newport Beach terminated its local emergency, the County’s board of supervisors voted to continue its emergency largely due to the access to state and federal funding the emergency provides. 

[Read: Newport Beach Ends COVID Local Emergency, County Supervisors Continue State of Emergency]

Other cities like Orange and Laguna Beach have chosen to extend their emergencies, but local city leaders there say it will probably be the last time they do so.

Officials in both cities had concerns that ending the emergency could stop them from getting state and federal funding for the Coronavirus response.

City staff in San Juan Capistrano say ending the local emergency would not inhibit their ability to get state and federal Covid financial support if needed again.

In Laguna Beach, there were also concerns regarding the Delta variant.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Huntington Beach has cancelled their local emergency. While city council members voted to prepare the necessary paperwork to end the emergency, they are expected to finalize that decision at their Aug. 3 meeting.

Jillie Herrold is a reporting fellow at Voice of OC and can be reached at jherrold@voiceofoc.org.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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