Health officials reported five new fatalities and an increase in hospitalizations as Orange County officials worked to disseminate $75 million in federal funding to help cities, small businesses and nonprofit organizations with COVID-19-related expenses.
The death toll now stands at 136, with 54 of those fatalities linked to skilled nursing facilities, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus increased from 269 to 274, with the number of patients in intensive care dipping from 106 to 101.
The HCA reported 116 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,646, while the number of people tested for the virus since the pandemic began stood at 109,013.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department reported 370 inmates have tested positive for the virus, with 324 having recovered. A dozen prisoners are currently sick, and officials are awaiting test results for 160 inmates.
A day after the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to dole out the $75 million in federal funding, county CEO Frank Kim said that he and his staff were working hard to push the money out to cities as quickly as possible.
The county received a total of $554 million from the federal government’s coronavirus relief bill, and plans to use $453 million of that sum on expenses such as overtime for staff responding to coronavirus emergencies as well as public health and medical costs.
Last week, the board approved sending $26 million of the county’s share of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to cities for direct expenses related to battling COVID-19. The supervisors had held off on plans to spend the remaining $75 million until Tuesday.
The board rejected a plan by Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel and Supervisor Don Wagner under which the money would be given to cities, and officials in the cities would decide which businesses would get grants.
Several mayors in the county had prodded the board to support Steel and Wagner’s plan.
“We’re pushing back on the governor on things like go slow to reopen the beaches, go slow to reopen the malls and his go slow to reopen the hair salons,” Wagner said. “This pressure on the governor is working… and the mayors are pushing back on us.”
Wagner maintained that the plan approved by the board — under which the money will be distributed evenly in each of the five supervisorial districts — would delay the allocation of money because an administrator will have to be hired to distribute grants to small businesses.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said Steel and Wagner’s plan might see more funding going to other districts that have more small businesses.
“I don’t want my district shorted by some formula that has not been set forth,” Chaffee said.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she wanted to “leverage” the money in her district through banking programs that would allow for more money to be available in the long run.
“The $75 million to each individual small business — it’s not a lifeline, except for a couple of days,” Bartlett said.
“You’re talking about $500 to $700 or something and that’s not going to sustain them for the long term. We have to get them through COVID-19. I want to sustain these businesses for the long term.”
Steel replied, “This is for short-term emergency support,” and said the hiring of an administrator to distribute the money would add “bureaucracy… and we’re just wasting money.”
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