SANTA ANA, Calif.—As cases of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, in Orange County jumped from 29 to 42 Wednesday, officials have revised the wording of an order from the county’s chief health officer that led to confusion among some residents who thought they were being told to shelter in place.
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick issued an order on Tuesday that prohibited gatherings and community events with exceptions for “essential activities.” The order confused some residents and business leaders who thought they were being told to close down offices and stores.
However, Quick’s order involved prohibiting dining in at restaurants and closing the county’s bars if they do not serve food. Restaurants were encouraged to remain open to serve customers food to go.
The uproar and anxiety from the public prompted officials to rewrite the order. No substantive changes were made.
County officials held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to reassure most merchants to stay open, but there are exceptions.
In addition to a ban on dining in at restaurants and bars, movie theaters, health clubs and gyms were told to close their doors.
The order does not prohibit school classes, but most schools have voluntarily closed or have moved to online-only learning.
The order “does not apply to essential public transportation, airport travel, shopping at a store, mall or farmers’ market, or charitable food pantries and distributions, or to congregate living situations, including dormitories and homeless encampments,” according to the amended order from Quick.
Businesses were encouraged to promote social distancing such as keeping people six feet apart and telecommuting when possible.
“Let me make it clear. Orange County is not on lockdown,” Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said.
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said he understood the confusion, saying some business leaders thought the prohibition on gatherings and events meant “you and your business office and you and a co-worker, unless you’re an essential service. A lot of people not in essential services worried if they went to work today would they be arrested, and that is not the intent.”
Quick’s order was put in place until 11:59 p.m. on March 31, and could be extended.
“We are asking our citizens to be safe,” Wagner said. “We are also very clearly not trying to shut down business in Orange County.”
Seniors 65 and older or anyone with a serious chronic medical condition or compromised immune system are strongly recommended to stay at home as much as possible. Anyone with mild to moderate symptoms are asked to self- isolate at home.
Wagner encouraged residents to check in on people who are quarantined.
“Make sure they have what they need,” Wagner said. “We are the help for each other until help arrives.”
Sheriff Don Barnes said deputies found some bars still open for business Tuesday night on St. Patrick’s Day, but they closed down when asked to do so.
“We asked for voluntary compliance and we got it,” Barnes said.
Even the St. Patrick’s Day revelers understood, Barnes said.
“They realized it was much bigger than one day out of the year,” the sheriff said.
Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy said 20 firefighters have been exposed to patients who were potentially stricken with the virus, but only one of the patients tested positive. That firefighter has gone into quarantine for two weeks.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said there is as much economic anxiety as there is concern about health. He said his office was working with small businesses on how they can seek disaster assistance loans.
“How do we help businesses that are likely to go under,” Chaffee said.
Some business operators are wondering how they can pay the rent while shut down or restricted.
“It’s more than just a healthcare crisis,” Chaffee said.
As of Wednesday, 42 people in Orange County have been diagnosed with COVID-19 with 22 travel-related, seven from person-to-person contact, and a dozen that fall under the “community acquired” category, according to Quick. One is under investigation as to how the patient contracted it.
The Orange County Transportation Authority board will meet next week via teleconference instead of in person, and there is some concern about how the agency will handle a decline in sales tax revenue as ridership dips.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.