A Monday court hearing on the federal government’s since-reversed plan to house coronavirus patients in Costa Mesa has been canceled, city officials said Sunday.
“On Saturday, February 29, we learned that Judge Staton cancelled the hearing for Monday, March 2, 2020 due to the federal government’s removal of the site at this time,” Mayor Katrina Foley said Sunday. “Our team will huddle up on Monday to strategize as to next steps to ensure the issue isn’t pushed on us again in the future.”
The hearing over the Costa Mesa issue had been scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday in Courtroom 10A in U.S. District Court, 411 W. Fourth St., in Santa Ana.
On Friday, the U.S. government dropped plans to house coronavirus patients at the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. The announcement followed a 3 1/2-hour meeting held Thursday among state, federal and local officials on the plan that U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton put on hold last week.
Despite the federal government’s decision to drop the plan, Monday’s court hearing was initially scheduled “because they have not been willing to confirm with us that this site won’t be considered in the future, so we want to nail that down,” Foley told City News Service last week.
According to a Friday court filing, federal authorities have “determined, as it informed the state …, that it now does not need to use the Fairview Developmental Center site to maintain a federal quarantine of passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. This development reflects the imminent end of the quarantine period for those passengers, as well as the unexpectedly small number of passengers who have tested positive for COVID-19.”
Initially, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that “as many as 50% of the passengers (from the cruise ship that was quarantined while docked in Japan) could test positive within the quarantine period; in fact, actual results have been much, much lower,” according to the court document.
Federal authorities said, however, the restraining order “deprived public health officials of a secure quarantine facility at a time when such a facility was badly needed, and has occupied key hospital resources in other counties at a time when those resources were needed for other patients. This litigation has also consumed myriad other state and federal resources, including the attention of key public health officials, at a time when the state is working to marshal every available resource to protect the public. Because the situation has evolved, and because state public health officials have found new ways to confront that evolving situation, this case is now moot.”
Orange County Supervisors have called an emergency meeting for Monday morning to discuss a plan for how to handle a pandemic or outbreak locally.
“I think the fact that we succeeded in pushing back on Fairview being a repository of COVID-19 patients doesn’t mean we’re in the clear as a county,” Do said. “We have been given warning by the CDC and World Health Organization today that this pandemic may be severe, so it is time for us to look internally and make sure we have an adequate plan in place. … We need a game plan and playbook in place so we don’t make mistakes.”
Foley added, “I think that’s an excellent idea,” and noted that city officials were also in the process of assembling a plan for confronting the virus if there is a local outbreak.
Also this weekend, Orange County Health Agency officials announced that they are now able to test for the virus, known as COVID-19.
“We’re now able to test individuals that meet @CDCgov criteria for #COVID19 testing at our Public Health Lab, including: (1) persons with fever or lower respiratory illness who had close contact with a COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, persons with fever and lower respiratory illness requiring hospitalization with a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset and persons with fever and severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization which is otherwise unexplained,” the agency tweeted Saturday.
Meanwhile, health officials announced Friday that more than 600 Orange County residents, who recently traveled to mainland China, have been asked to voluntarily stay at home under self-quarantine in case they develop coronavirus symptoms, the Orange County Register reported.
They do not have symptoms, but Orange County Health Officer Nichole Quick said the self-quarantine is a precaution in accordance with a Feb. 2 order from the federal Centers for Disease Control.
There has only been one confirmed case of the virus in Orange County, and officials said that person has since recovered. But as a precaution, Orange County health officials declared local health emergency on Wednesday.
Worldwide, more than 88,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, including 3,001 deaths, the vast majority of them in China. Seventy-three cases have been confirmed in the United States, including more than 30 in California.