SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS)—Orange County’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned on June 8 after drawing criticism from residents for her order last month to require face coverings as the county allowed some businesses to reopen.
Quick was receiving heightened security due to threats stemming from her the mask order. Protesters brought a poster with Quick’s photo on it with a Hitler mustache on her face and swastikas to a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said Quick resigned apparently because “it was too much for her. She has three young children and she’s been severely criticized by people who came out demanding her resignation, demonstrations in front of her home.”
He added, “She’s done her best to give her medical opinion and it’s not popular so she has resigned.”
Quick’s resignation was the second major and abrupt departure in Orange County since the pandemic began. David Souleles decided to retire in April as deputy agency director of public health services.
The plan is to have the Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau also serve as the chief health officer as well, so the county can issue health orders required by the state to reopen businesses and activities such as bars, day camps, community pools, hotels, and youth sports.
Chaffee was not sure what would happen with Quick’s mask order. Chau has defended it, explaining it is required when residents cannot maintain 6 feet of social distancing.
Chaffee noted that for all the residents who show up at board of supervisors meetings to complain about the mask order, officials have received a great deal of expressions of support for it.
“The email is 10-to-1 to keep it,” Chaffee said. “They’re afraid to show up [at board meetings] because of the confrontation it will entail.”
Chaffee said he would “stand by whatever the medical opinion is” going forward.
Quick said she would reconsider the mask order in three weeks, “and we’re at day 9 or 10,” Chaffee said.
Quick said she issued the order because she was concerned about an increase in COVID-19 cases, as residents would be interacting more as stay-at-home orders were relaxed.
Earlier in June, Quick drew criticism from Supervisor Don Wagner, who questioned the need for face coverings as he said other parts of the state were backing away from those orders. Quick replied that Los Angeles and San Diego counties were requiring them.
“We are seeing an increase in community transmission,” Quick said at the June 2 board meeting. “I also think our hospitalization rates have been trending up.”
Quick said face coverings “can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. There is evidence to support that, and I feel strongly we need a face-covering order in place as we continue to send people out into more social interactions.”
Wagner said some residents have complained of “public shaming” for not wearing a face covering, and have been denied service in “pharmacies and other places. Is that an appropriate response to your mask policy?”
Quick replied, “I absolutely think people should not be shamed if they have a medical reason for not wearing a mask.”
When Wagner asked her how much longer it needed to be in place, Quick said, “Like all things in COVID, we evaluate the data and evidence on a daily basis. … As long as we’re seeing increasing numbers in the county … I feel the need for a face-covering mandate.”
On June 8, Orange County health officials reported 113 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s cumulative total to 7,527. The number of deaths remained unchanged at 177.
The number of hospitalized patients dipped from 297 on June 7 to 291 on June 8, with the number in intensive care rising from 129 to 135, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Health officials say 85 of the deaths in the county involved residents of skilled nursing home facilities.
The number of people tested for COVID-19 in the county stands at 161,547, with 3,326 documented recoveries.