In Appeal to the State: County Officials Cite Met Criteria for Reopening More OC Businesses

Friday, May 22, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

Orange County will likely know within days whether the state will allow the county to reopen in-person dining and shopping and destination retail such as malls.

On late Thursday, May 21, Orange County officials sent their finalized request to the state for permission expand further into Stage 2 of reopening more businesses in the county, saying it meets Gov. Gavin Newsom’s criteria announced Monday, May 18.

“We believe we have met all the criteria,” County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said Thursday, May 21.

But the county on Wednesday, May 20, reported its highest daily total of positive coronavirus tests at 249, and the most deaths in a single day, 14 people, on Thursday. Officials stressed Thursday that 10 of those 14 people were residents of skilled nursing facilities.

Still, Orange County officials say they meet Newsom’s reopening criteria, according to their documents submitted to the state:

Testing: The state requires a county to have the capacity to do 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents a day, which adds up to about 4,800 for Orange County. Although the county has never done more than 4,800 tests in a day, officials said they have the capacity to do as many as 9,000 in a day if there is that demand. The county also has more than 20 state and locally funded test sites, officials said.

Hospitalizations: On average over seven days, the number of those hospitalized from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, increased by less than 1 percent a day, officials said. The county is required to have no more than a 5% day-to-day increase in hospitalizations.

Cases: Over the past seven days, 7.95% of those tested in the county had positive cases of the virus, officials said. The state requires counties to have no more than 8% of people tested in the past week coming back positive.

Contact tracing: The state requires the county to have 465 contact tracers. The county has 225 staff trained for contact tracing, but officials said they continue to train more staff to achieve the state’s goal.

Capacity: Hospitals are maintaining a 21% surge capacity with “the ability to quickly scale up to 60%-70% surge capacity,” officials said. The state requires a counties’ hospitals to be able to handle a surge of at least 35% more patients in the case of an uptick in illnesses.

Nursing homes: The county’s skilled nursing facilities in the coming days will receive a shipment of protective equipment, including masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said. Combined with a large donation of equipment from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, the facilities should have a more than a required 14-day supply of the equipment, officials said.

The county also has nearly 750 motel rooms and trailers available to temporarily house those who are homeless, officials said. They also said the county has negotiated leases with five additional motels, meeting the state’s requirement to have enough housing to shelter at least 15% of the county’s homeless population to protect it from a potential outbreak.

County officials said they will pull back on their reopening plan if they see a “significant sustained increase” in the local fatality rate or disease prevalence over seven days. But unlike San Diego and Ventura counties, Orange County officials didn’t provide specific numerical benchmarks.

More than 40 of the state’s 58 counties have already secured approval to reopen more businesses. But with the exception of San Diego and Ventura counties, no Southern California counties have gotten the go-ahead as of Friday, May 22.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties are also expected to ask for the state’s approval in the coming days.

Hair and nail salons, gyms, churches and recreational venues such as indoor museums and libraries would not be allowed to open until Stage 3 of the state’s reopening plan, which Newsom has hinted could come within “a few weeks” depending on the data.


Category: COVID-19