Orange County frustrated with COVID-19 purple crossing

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A sign of the continued political polarization surrounding COVID-19, Orange County officials express frustration over Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to move the region to the most restrictive reopening level amid a dangerous new outbreak coronavirus infections statewide.Tory county leaders have long disagreed with the Democratic governor over restrictions on businesses, public spaces and activities, but now it looks like the clash will extend into the holiday season as California enters it. which could be its most difficult chapter in the pandemic.

The state canceled reopenings in much of California as cases increased. Some areas are considering even more local restrictions – including hard-hit Los Angeles County, where officials imposed new restrictions on Tuesday and warned of a curfew and a new stay-at-home order if conditions continue to deteriorate – while others, including Bay Area counties like San Francisco, have voluntarily added restrictions that go beyond state requirements as a protective measure.

But Orange County officials said Tuesday the state had gone too far.

Although they reiterated the importance for residents to take steps to protect themselves and loved ones from the virus, some county supervisors have given Newsom and his administration the task of reclassification.

Recently elected Republican Congresswoman Michelle Steel called the move a “one-sided move” she thinks “troubling and damaging to Orange County families in need of food. on the table, to small businesses struggling to stay open, and to the sanity of our community.

“Instead of fighting COVID-19 in a thoughtful way, this one-size-fits-all approach threatens the livelihoods of our residents,” she said in a statement.

Monday’s dramatic announcement saw Orange County, along with 27 other counties in the state, regress to the purple level – the strictest of the four color-coded categories in the state’s coronavirus reopening system.

As a result, many businesses and other public facilities will have to suspend or severely limit domestic operations.

The widespread reallocation, which Newsom has likened to pulling an emergency brake, comes as California grapples with its largest coronavirus outbreak to date.

Weekly infections across the state are now almost 150% worse than a month ago, dropping from around 22,600 to 56,000 for the seven-day period that ended on Sunday, according to a Times analysis. California reported 13,412 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, a one-day high. Health experts broadly supported the state’s approach, saying restrictions were needed to help slow the skyrocketing infection rate.

Given the explosion in the number of cases, this week’s tier reassignments have been accelerated. The system is based on new cases of the coronavirus and tested positivity rates. Previously, a county’s parameters had to be in the threshold of a more restrictive level for two consecutive weeks before declining. The state now says only one week of data is needed.

Orange County had been in the second most severe – or red – category for weeks. However, its latest adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 population was 10.8, high enough to land in the purple range, indicating widespread transmission of the disease.

Even with the regression, this adjusted rate is the third lowest in Southern California, behind only Santa Barbara County and, narrowly, San Diego County, according to state data.

For some in Orange County, however, the abrupt change – aside from causing undue confusion and dismay for residents and businesses – is the latest example of a state response to the pandemic that has too often been top-down. , uneven and excessive.

“We hear a little bit of desperation that’s out there in the community as we go back to purple, and that desperation, I think, isn’t there just because, ‘Oh, it’s okay, we’re doing more measurements. crackdown, ‘but because we see no end in sight,’ supervisor Don Wagner said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“And by that I mean every time this governor has come up with some sort of plan to deal with the coronavirus, it ends up changing – changing for the worse.

Others have challenged the system on several levels itself, saying the state should take other parameters – such as the number of hospitalizations – into consideration.

“Our health care system is very prepared,” said supervisor Lisa Bartlett. “So while we want to balance that with health and safety, I think reopening our economy as much as possible, and we’ve proven that we can do it safely, is really the right way to go. to follow.

Orange County has previously argued with the governor over coronavirus restrictions, including when the state briefly closed local beaches. Some towns have also made headlines for the reluctance of their residents to wear masks in public places, even though local leaders have urged them to do so.

However, officials pointed out that the county’s case rates and number of hospitalizations remain in better shape than some of its neighbors in southern California.

“What we have done and what this board has done and what Dr. [Clayton] Chau and, more importantly, the people of Orange County have done to direct resources where they need to go and to protect themselves works, ”said Wagner. “This is the model – not the desperation, the despair, the shutting down and the hope for the best that the governor imposes on us. We have tried this before. This is proof that it does not work.

The county is not alone in expressing concerns or antipathy towards state restrictions. More than 100 elected officials, business owners and residents gathered near the San Diego waterfront on Monday, demanding that the county – also in the purple level – let restaurants, churches and other small businesses reopen.

“It’s not a choice between opening businesses or saving lives,” said Jim Desmond, San Diego County Supervisor. “We can do both.”

Overall, Orange County has reported about 66,000 cumulative cases of coronavirus and more than 1,500 residents have died from COVID-19.

County officials have always stressed that it is up to residents and businesses to do their part to help stem the spread of the virus.

This is especially true when just around the corner is the vacation – a time when residents might be tempted to get together with family and friends without taking precautions.

California has generally banned large gatherings, although brief, small gatherings of up to three households can take place, as long as they are held outdoors and participants are physically distanced and wear masks. .

Chau, director of the OC Healthcare Agency and county health official, said he hoped residents would take the advice to heart.

“I know it’s difficult. We’re all in the same boat, ”he says. “And I would highly recommend [to] our residents that we can overcome this very quickly if we follow them.

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