Orange County health officials will no longer require people to wear masks in public, but will still mandate them inside grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses.
The move on Thursday came after intense backlash from residents and the resignation of Dr. Nichole Quick, who issued the mask mandate last month and abruptly resigned Monday after threats and protests in front of her home.
On Friday the county also allowed a number of new businesses to reopen, including bars, gyms, movie theaters, pools, schools, day camps and family entertainment centers. Los Angeles County is also allowing some of these activities to commence today, but will move slower on opening bars, movie theaters and family entertainment centers to monitor positive test rates and hospitalizations.
Orange County officials have been more aggressive in relaxing stay-at-home health orders, even as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.
Dr. Clayton Chau, who was appointed to replace Quick this week and issued the new order on masks Thursday, said the rise in cases could be attributed to the Memorial Day holiday.
“This is a remnant of what happened over Memorial Day weekend. We expected that,” Chau said.
If there is an uptick in cases that pushes the county beyond guidelines the state has established, then officials can reconsider a face-covering mandate again, Chau said.
Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she wants to keep the county’s mask ordinance adopted in April to remain in place for grocery stores and other retail businesses.
“I want to keep that in effect not only to protect the public but the workers,” Bartlett said. “There are certain businesses where you can’t do the 6 feet of social distancing.”
Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel, meanwhile, said she sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to allow the county to reopen additional businesses in Phase 3 that include nail salons, youth sports and theme parks.
“Our businesses are hurting and they need to open immediately,” Steel said.
The Orange County Health Care Agency reported 4 more COVID-19 deaths Thursday, raising the total to 202.
The county on Thursday also reported 260 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to 7,987. The number of people hospitalized dropped from 306 on Wednesday to 294, while the number of patients in intensive care dipped from 146 to 142.
On Thursday, Seal Beach officials revealed a nursing home outbreak that has claimed 2 lives and sickened dozens of residents and staffers.
Seal Beach officials issued a statement Thursday detailing how a nursing home outbreak inflated its number of coronavirus cases from 29 to 57 from Tuesday to Wednesday. Management of the Seal Beach Health and Rehabilitation Center learned on May 23 that a resident and a staffer had tested positive for COVID-19.
The outbreak has since ballooned to 63 residents and 40 staffers testing positive, with 2 residents dying of complications from the virus, Seal Beach officials said.
According to the most recent data from the Health Care Agency, there have been outbreaks in 28 skilled nursing facilities, 6 in assisted living facilities, and in 2 care homes. An outbreak is defined as more than 2 cases.
As of Wednesday, 979 residents of the nursing homes had contracted COVID-19, and 505 staffers had been infected, according to the county.
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