NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Newport Beach temporarily closed City Hall and its community centers Jan. 3 amid a surge of COVID-19 cases across Orange County due to the Omicron variant.
Newport Beach spokesman John Pope said the decision came from city manager Grace Leung after more employees began testing positive for COVID-19.
“We saw what was happening in terms of the community spread, but we also had a high number of employees reporting positive tests during the winter break,” Pope told The Epoch Times. He said city staff out sick and in quarantine could affect the level of services the city can provide.
Over the holidays, the city was seeing two-to-five employees testing positive for COVID-19 everyday, with some days as high as 11 employees, Pope added.
For residents who need to turn in paper documents, payments, or other items to the permit counter, they will be able to utilize drop-off bins placed outside of city hall instead, which were used in previous COVID-19 shutdowns. Bills can be paid online and over the phone.
“One thing we want to emphasize to the residents is that all our services are continuing, just in a slightly different fashion for the next couple of weeks,” Pope said.
The city anticipates the closure to last for at least two weeks; however, it could be longer depending on COVID-19 case rates, Pope said.
“We really have to just see where these cases go,” he said. If it turns out that the peak was last week, and we’re seeing the case numbers go down that will influence our decision to open up. If they keep going up, that would move in the other direction. So we thought two weeks is a good evaluation period where we can kind of see where the cases are going.”
Despite the closure, the city says it is working to ensure all city services continue, though some will be conducted through virtual and drop-off services.
“Our highest priority is to maintain services and service levels to the community during this time,” a city statement reads.
The city’s libraries will be remaining open, yet no in-person meetings or programs will be taking place until the city reopens its facilities.
Recreation classes offered by the city will continue as previously scheduled, though participants will be required to wear face masks while indoors, with community centers being limited to those participating in a program only.