Every So Cal County Offers Residents Public Updates On Covid, Except OC
All of the surrounding counties in Southern California are regularly updating their residents and their respective watchdog boards of the worsening pandemic situation, with some holding weekly press conferences – while Orange County supervisors did not. no public update since the end of June.
OC Supervisor Chairman Andrew Do – supported by the majority – shut down public updates on the pandemic at their meeting in late June by tying the local county emergency ordinance to the expiration of the state emergency ordinance.
This means that the COVID update and other elements will not return until state officials reverse their emergency order, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon as positivity rates in the state are increasing steadily – largely fueled by the Delta variant.
Or until a majority of county supervisors agree to bring back the update.
Supervisor Katrina Foley attempted to create a public update herself, but her questions were often interrupted by her colleagues. Now she started doing it at the end of the meetings during general comments.
It has also been more than eight months since Orange County public health officials held a press conference on the pandemic. The weekly practice came to an abrupt end in December, at the height of the winter wave that ultimately killed at least 2,000 residents.
The situation worsens as OC lacks public updates
The OC positivity rate was 8.2% on Wednesday, according to state data.
It was hovering around 1% when the statewide reopening of June 15 took place, which ended most pandemic measures like masks and limiting the number of people entering businesses.
“What your readers should understand is that the percentage of positivity and hospitalizations are the two numbers I pay attention to the most,” UC epidemiologist Irvine Andrew Noymer said in a telephone interview the last week.
There were also 375 people hospitalized, 68 of them in intensive care units across the OC, according to state data.
The new cases have hit coastal towns in Orange County harder than others, data shows.
[Read: OC Coastal Cities See Covid Spike]
Some local public health experts said residents may get the wrong impression about the lack of public updates from local health officials.
“I think the main message people are getting is that the pandemic is basically over. Public health officials speak as if COVID is behind us. So it’s no surprise that people are getting together.
UC Irvine epidemiologist Sanghyuk Shin in a telephone interview on Tuesday
Suellen Hopfer, associate professor in the UCI’s Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention, said public health officials should release as much information as possible to the public, especially on vaccines.
“Flooding the environment with information with the importance of this aspect must be a priority. This is a key factor in preventing it from getting out of hand, ”Hopfer said in a telephone interview on Monday.
OC health officer Dr Clayton Chau told Voice of OC that only county supervisors can report public updates at their meetings and re-launch press conferences – a practice that has ended in December at the height of the winter wave.
Supervisors chairman Andrew Do and his spokesperson did not respond to questions about returning updates or press conferences.
But, Supervisor Doug Chaffee said it might be time to bring back such updates.
“It’s a suggestion, that maybe at some point we should attend a real press conference,” Chaffee said in a telephone interview Monday.
He added that press conferences are “an interesting question … I’ll ask the question.”
Hopfer, who examines reluctance to vaccinate, said many people who are reluctant to get vaccinated can be swayed if local officials commit to more regular updates and a constant public awareness campaign.
She said that by scaling up these efforts, as well as partnering with family physicians, not only will “answer questions to build confidence, but also provide motivators to vaccinate.”
Officials, she said, should give examples of what residents can expect to do after being fully immunized during updates – such as staving off fears of being seriously infected.
“It not only protects the physical well-being, but also the mental and emotional health of families – it’s a way to get back to a lot of physical activity,” Hopfer said.
Local epidemiologists, like Shin and others interviewed over the past month, say vaccines are still effective against the Delta variant and that if a vaccinated person contracts the disease, the risk of serious illness is significantly reduced.
“Fully vaccinated people have an extremely high level of protection against serious illness and death and have fairly high protection against symptomatic illness and fairly high protection against overall infection.”
UC Irvine epidemiologist Sanghyuk Shin in a telephone interview on Tuesday
Efforts by neighboring counties to publicly inform their residents
Supervisors from Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties all receive public updates on the pandemic situation at their respective meetings.
Some updates canceled when case rates were low, but then brought them back.
“I know we talked about not doing a COVID update, but because there has been a change in the situation, and the supervisor [Manuel] Perez asked a few questions, we’ll go ahead today and have a COVID situation report, ”Riverside County Oversight Board Chair Karen Spiegel said at their July 27 meeting.
Riverside County health official Dr Geoffey Leung noted similar trends across Southern California.
“As of this morning, our case rate in Riverside County is 10.7 per 100,000 [residents]. And that is compared to a low of 1.5 per 100,000 that we saw early last month, ”Leung said at the meeting. “Overall, today’s numbers represent a more than five-fold increase in case rate and positivity over the past two months.
Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico said public updates – along with a weekly press conference – were reinstated in late July as cases continued to rise.
San Bernardino County Public Health Department Acting Director Andrew Goldfrach also noted similar increases at that county’s supervisory board meeting on the same day.
“The transmission rate has increased dramatically since June 15,” Goldfrach told supervisors. “If we were to still have the blueprint for the economy, we would be in the purple level.”
He was referring to the state’s old four-tier, color-coded business reopening guidelines that ended when the state-wide reopening of June 15 struck.
When the restrictions were lifted, Orange County was in the least restrictive yellow level.
If the levels existed today, OC would be in the most restrictive purple level.
[Read: When Will OC Get to Reopen? Questions Mount Over New State Guidelines and County’s Actual Case Rates]
San Diego County Health Officer Dr Wilma Wooten also noted similar trends to that county’s Oversight Board at its July 13 meeting – the last public meeting.
“A week after the state ended the Blueprint for a Safer Economy… cases started to increase in late June, as shown here,” Wooten told supervisors while presenting case charts.
San Diego County has been holding weekly press conferences since the start of the pandemic.
While some San Diego County supervisors said the state’s decision to require students to wear masks in classrooms should be left to school districts, one supervisor said the debate had become too political
[Read: OC School Districts Left On Their Own On Enforcing Statewide Classroom Mask Mandate]
San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer started crying during the mask discussion because she said her daughter with a learning disability may fall behind other students due to the masks.
“She can’t see people’s mouths and she’s not learning to speak. But I would also feel so bad if she received COVID or transmitted COVID and brought it home and someone died, ”Lawson-Remer told colleagues.
“I think I have to figure out not what’s good for my own daughter, but what’s good for the collective – what’s good for all of us. Which is good for everyone. Sorry I’m crying. I just think it got politicized in a really unhealthy and unnecessary way, ”she said.
Last week, state public health officials issued guidelines urging all Californians to wear masks indoors, regardless of their immunization status.
[Read: State Health Department Recommends Masks for Everyone Indoors]
Some counties, like Los Angeles, have gone further and imposed masks on all people in indoor public places like grocery stores, department stores, and various indoor businesses.
Meanwhile, in Orange County, a supervisor created a de facto public update at meetings.
Last Tuesday, Supervisor Katrina Foley provided an overview of the virus situation in the county during the supervisors comment period at the very end of the meeting.
“We always want to make sure people are using preventative measures and being careful,” Foley said during her update. “If you don’t want to get the shot, avoid the crowds. It’s really important right now.
She also said she wore a mask to meetings as many people who have become regulars at meetings have also opposed vaccines and masks for months.
[Read: OC Supervisors Grapple With Letting Vaccinated People Ditch Masks in County Buildings]
“People can criticize me all day for wearing my mask in this room, but I will continue to do that because people keep coming into this room and telling me they are not vaccinated,” Foley said. .
When she finished her update, only Chairman Do was left to adjourn the meeting.
All his other colleagues are gone.