Board of Supervisors hopes to reopen county by Memorial Day

Protestors in Laguna Beach call for the state to reopen in early May. Photo by Brian Candelario / el Don

Update: Orange County’s plan for reopening, submitted under Governor Newsom’s variance guidelines, has been approved. Effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, dine-in restaurants, shopping centers, and a limeted selection of personal care services will now be available.

In the wake of Gov. Newsom’s loosening of key indicators, the Orange County Board of Supervisors made it clear Monday that they are working to reopen the county as quickly as possible. Shopping malls and dine-in restaurants could be open by this weekend. 

New guidelines set during the governor’s daily press conference Monday opened the way for 53 of California’s 58 counties to progress through phase two of the reopening process. The late stage of Phase 2 includes opening shopping malls and dine-in restaurants, with restrictions. 

Supervisor Andrew Do, who represents the fourth district including Santa Ana, was hopeful about moving into the late stage of Phase 2 in time for Memorial Day.

“I’m still keeping my fingers crossed,” Do said. “I’m hoping that by this weekend we’re going to enter phase two fully.”

Initially, the state guidelines called for counties to have no deaths over a 14-day period and a maximum of one positive case per 100,000 residents. After a Sunday phone call between the governor’s office and counties across the state, local officials said the limitations were amended. 

Under the new guidelines, counties instead must not see more than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or more than 20 new hospitalizations in a single day over a 14-day period, and the positive test rate needs to remain below 8%.

Orange County Health Officer Nichole Quick said that as of May 18, Orange county meets the hospitalization requirement, though she acknowledged that could change at any time. Orange County Health Agency numbers indicate that Orange County has a positive rate of 6.5% with about 4,500 cases to date. 

On Wednesday, Orange County filed its reopening plan, along with 28 other counties, but has not received approval yet. 

The push to re-open business comes as food insecurity across the county grows. Orange County Social Services Agency Director Debra Bates reported that applications for food stamps have made up 61% of recent requests, a statistic that echoes the statements from those who spoke during public comment.

The sole reason for economic difficulties in this time is that businesses have been shut down and employees have been laid off,” Chairwoman Michelle Steel said. “If we support businesses and get them open as fast as possible, that will boost our economy and, most importantly, provide essential jobs — because every private-sector job is essential.”

Supervisor Donald Wagner agreed.

“Let’s open as much as possible,” he said. “Let’s open as soon as possible. Let’s open as safely as possible.”

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