Orange County officials were weighing an order from the county’s chief health officer requiring face coverings for food industry workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday.
David Souleles, a deputy director of the OC Health Care Agency, told county supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting that OC’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, was planning to issue an advisory recommendation on face coverings for store clerks. However, it would still require an order from the county supervisors to make the recommendation mandatory and enforceable, county counsel Leon Page said.
Quick was continuing to weigh some sort of an order or recommendation on Wednesday.
Supervisor Andrew Do introduced a motion to require clerks working in the food industry to wear face coverings Tuesday, but it failed when no other supervisor would second the motion.
Supervisor Don Wagner argued that he would rather follow Quick’s lead.
“None of us are doctors and the public health officer is telling us what she believes is an appropriate order at this time,” Wagner said. “We would be unwise to get away from that procedure.”
If health officials are advising the public to wear scarves or masks to help reduce the transmission of the virus from asymptomatic people then it ought to apply to workers in the food industry as well, Do argued. He noted that last week, San Diego County adopted a similar policy.
Suellen Hopfer, a professor of disease prevention at UC Irvine, told City News Service restaurant workers should wear some sort of face covering. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending the practice for food workers.
Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said Wednesday that a city order has taken effect requiring retail workers to wear face coverings in that city. The requirement applies to grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores where clerks interact with customers, the mayor said.
On Friday, the Irvine City Council will consider adopting an ordinance, Shea said.
City officials attempted to cajole city businesses to go along with a resolution on face coverings last month, but the majority of retail workers have not complied, Shea said. Some store managers have said corporate executives have said it should be voluntary, the mayor said.
“That’s just not OK,” Shea said. “We didn’t want to go to this step.”
Shea said she and other council members and other volunteers even handed out masks to various stores in the city to use.
“It was a huge hole in the social distancing,” Shea said of the lack of masks or scarves used to cover the face. “And we need to tighten up that hole and fix it.”
Also at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Shari Freidenrich said she was advised by attorneys that while she could not move the Friday deadline for property taxes due, she could provide relief from penalties for some residents who pay late because they were affected by the pandemic. Applications for waivers from penalties would be considered on a case-by-case basis, she said.
The county has collected 85% of property taxes it is owed, Freidenrich said. That tracks with the pace of last year, she added.
Orange County has 931 cases of coronavirus and 15 deaths, with another update expected later Wednesday.
The number of hospitalized patients dropped from 130 on Monday to 129 on Tuesday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 72 to 75, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Of the county’s 931 cases, eight, or nearly 1%, involve people under 18 years old; 9% are between 18-24; 16% are between 25-34; 15% are between 35-44; 40% are between 45-64, and 19% are 65 or older. Men make up 53% of the county’s cases.
As of Tuesday, 11,307 people had been tested for COVID-19 in the county, with enough tests for 818 more people.
Anaheim has the most cases with 95, followed by Irvine with 82 and Newport Beach with 75. Huntington Beach has seen a sharp rise to 67 cases, two more than Santa Ana.
Sheriff Don Barnes told the Board of Supervisors he received test results Monday night showing four more inmates in Orange County’s jails have COVID-19, increasing the total to 10, nine men and one woman.
Nineteen inmates are in “medical isolation,” meaning they are showing symptoms of coronavirus, Barnes said. Another 159 inmates are in quarantine, meaning they have had contact with someone with the virus.
Sheriff’s officials have implemented a full quarantine in the men’s and women’s jails.
Barnes said last week two deputies tested positive for the coronavirus and are recuperating at home. One works at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange and the other at the main jail in Santa Ana.
Co-workers and inmates who came into contact with those deputies were being alerted. Their co-workers were being told to quarantine themselves if they feel they have symptoms, and officials are monitoring the inmates, said Carrie Braun, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s director of public affairs and community engagement.
Nine Orange County Fire Authority firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Colleen Windsor, the OCFA’s director of communications. Four have recovered, but none have returned to work, she added.
“From what we know, none of their family members have gotten sick so they’ve all done a great job of self-isolating and taking precautions,” Windsor said.