Orange County’s COVID-19 cases increased by 48 Monday to reach 882, with the death toll remaining unchanged at 14.
The number of hospitalized patients decreased from 137 on Sunday to 130 Monday, but the number of patients in intensive care units rose from 56 to 72, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Of the county’s 882 cases, six, or 1%, involve children; 79, or 9%, are between 18-24; 139, or 16%, are between 25-34; 134, or 15%, are between 35-44; 359, or 41%, are between 45-64; and 164, or 19%, are 65 or older. Men make up 54% of the county’s cases.
As of Monday, 10,489 people had been tested for COVID-19 in the county, with enough tests available for 950 more people.
Anaheim has the most cases with 92, followed by Irvine with 77 and Newport Beach with 73.
Two cases involve Orange County sheriff’s deputies, one of whom works at the Theo Lacy jail in Orange and the other at the main jail in Santa Ana. Both men are resting at home, said Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Co-workers and inmates who came into contact with the deputies were being alerted. Co-workers were being told to quarantine themselves if they feel they have symptoms, and officials are monitoring the inmates, Braun said.
Sheriff Don Barnes said 18 inmates are in medical isolation because they have shown symptoms associated with COVID-19, and six have tested positive and nine are awaiting test results. The sheriff has also placed 166 inmates in quarantine because they have had contact with others who have tested positive for coronavirus, Barnes said.
As of March 28, the sheriff had released 327 inmates who were shortly about to finish their sentences. He said of those, 108 were elderly or had underlying health conditions that put them at particular risk.
The county’s jails housed 5,200 inmates as of March 6, “and as of this morning under 4,000,” Barnes said.
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do said he will propose a new policy at Tuesday’s board meeting that would require store clerks to wear face coverings.
“Last week, San Diego County changed its policy to start requiring face coverings for all employees who may have contact with the public in any grocery store, pharmacy/drug store, convenience store, gas station, restaurant, or other business establishment that serves food,” said Do, the board’s vice chairman. “`I will make the same recommendation at (Tuesday’s meeting) to protect our essential workers and each other.”
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick has discouraged residents from seeking out surgical masks or N95 masks, which are in short supply and badly needed by healthcare workers. Instead, Quick recommends any sort of face covering, including scarves and bandannas, because they can be effective in cutting down the spread of the virus, though people should still stay at home and practice social distancing.
Do said he would also call on the governor to give county officials more “flexibility” when spending state funding earmarked for mental health services to cover substance abuse disorders, which, he added, was “needed at this time.”
County officials also announced Monday that they have abandoned plans to house transients in the 138-bed Ayres Hotel at 24341 El Toro Road in Laguna Woods because the hotel chain backed out of its lease with the county. The plan drew lawsuits filed Monday morning by the City Council and the Laguna Woods Village retirement community, because residents feared the guests would spread the virus among the mostly elderly community around the hotel. Those lawsuits were withdrawn when the hotel chain got out of its lease.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents Laguna Woods, said transients were more than likely to use emergency rooms if they fall ill, so the hotel plan would free up more hospital beds and help cut down on the spread of coronavirus among the transient community.
“This is what we need to do to contain everything,” Bartlett said of the state’s plan to house transients in hotels and motels. “The Ayres Hotel was the only hotel that stepped up to do their part.”
She added, “I know this is difficult and challenging, but this is a public health crisis and we need to address this as a full public body… The county cannot fight this virus alone. I know we’re asking a lot of all of you, but I guarantee you right now this is the only way to do it.”
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said the county has begun housing transients at a hotel in Orange, and there are plans to begin using a hotel in Stanton.
Once officials clear up water quality issues at the former Joplin Youth Center in Trabuco Canyon in about a week, roughly 100 elderly transients will be moved in there. The hotels and motels are being rented out for about three months and the Illumination Foundation has been contracted to run them for about $16 million.
County officials are also planning to erect sprung structures, which are like large tents, in regional parks, Kim said.
Bartlett said she has advocated for the county to buy a hotel or motel to be used for permanent housing to address the homeless problem. The county had to pay one motel operator in Anaheim $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging damage and economic loss when it was used by the county to move transients out of the Santa Ana riverbed.
Bartlett said county officials throughout the state have been talking about appealing to the governor to find funding for hotel acquisitions to help get transients off the streets.
“If we can turn these facilities into permanent housing… it makes good economic sense to do so,” Bartlett said.
California remains under a stay-at-home order with exceptions for essential services, although hundreds of people turned out Saturday at Huntington Beach’s Dog Beach, where police officers were on hand to order visitors to stay at least 6 feet apart.
“I’m shocked at the number of people with chairs, food, balls etc. for an afternoon at the beach,” Huntington Beach resident Benigna Carrillo told City News Service. “I called police and they told me the beach is open. This is not good. We are in a crisis.”
Huntington Beach police Lt. Brian Smith confirmed the beach was open, but parking lots, the pier, amphitheatre and picnic tables were closed, with signs and fencing to make clear which areas were off-limits, he said.
While Smith described attendance at much of the city’s beach as in the “dozens, not hundreds,” the opposite was true at the dog beach around 17th Street, where there were “hundreds of people,” he said Saturday. Officers were on hand to remind them to keep their distance.
County statistics show Huntington Beach has 62 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Kim said he checked on crowd sizes while out running errands this weekend and said he saw “fairly light numbers of individuals using the beaches” while “observing social distancing.”
The county wants to keep the parks and beaches open, but only if they don’t draw large crowds ignoring physical distancing.
Critics of horse racing at Los Alamitos plan to appeal to the county board on Tuesday to shut down the race course, where three horses have died since March 29. After one horse died March 29, the race course closed to public spectators, but continued to run races and take bets.
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