Orange County supervisors have set aside $1 million in federal relief funds to help restaurants adapt to newly announced restrictions that require them to serve all customers outdoors.
Restaurants in the California county will soon be able to apply for $1,000 grants to pay for heaters, lighting, and tents for outside seating under a plan offered by Supervisors Don Wagner and Andrew Do at a Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 17.
The motion will use $1 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money to help qualified restaurants adapt to the newly mandated restrictions. The response came after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered 28 California counties, including Orange County, back to the most restrictive tier in the state’s COVID-19 monitoring system on Nov. 16, requiring that restaurants once again only serve customers outdoors.
“Given the governor’s order, there is a need to take immediate action to assist Orange County restaurants to purchase equipment so that they can continue to operate in compliance with the state-mandated codes, meaning outside, as the weather turns colder and rainier, Wagner said.
The money will be available to 1,000 eligible restaurants on a first-come basis. Restaurants must use the money only to purchase related items, and are required to use the funds before Dec. 23, Wagner said.
Restaurant owners will be able to apply on the county’s website starting on Nov. 20.
Dozens of Orange County residents spoke out at the Nov. 17 board meeting, criticizing the governor for placing the county back into the purple tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
“As a small business owner, you’re basically going to put me under,” said local resident Diane Gonzales. “This is not right. I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother of 12 grandchildren. These lockdowns are very dangerous.”
Dawn Helwig from Yorba Linda said, “I’m watching the effects that the lockdowns are having on young people, on college students, and on business owners. … The rise in suicide and the things I’ve encountered as a small business owner are devastating.”
Many residents praised Wagner for being supportive of their criticism regarding California’s restrictions on businesses, and the supervisor responded by urging residents to reach out if they need help and to know they aren’t alone.
“We’re hearing a bit of hopelessness that is out there in the community as we move back into purple, and that hopelessness I think is not there just because we’re doing more clampdowns, but because we’re seeing no end in sight,” he said.
“It is depressing, but it is not a hopeless situation. We’re going to get through this.”
At the meeting, Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) and the county health officer, gave an update on reopening requirements for local schools.
“For our colleges and universities, all of the indoor classes have to now go online, with the exception of laboratory classes that are necessary for people who are on track to become essential workers,” Chau said.
Meanwhile, K–12 schools that are already open will be allowed to stay open. Those that are not open will have to stay closed, and schools that are in the middle of phased reopenings must submit a request directly to Chau before continuing with their plans, he said.
The OCHCA director nearly broke down as he urged residents to keep social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands, saying this will help the county’s economy bounce back more quickly.
“I get emotional thinking about how this will affect [people], and so I’m asking the community to continue to do so, to make sure that we do everything we can to protect each other, because we really need to move forward to a less restrictive tier so we can bring back jobs,” he said.
“The request that we rescind these orders from the state and that somehow we can rescind this executive order from the governor, that’s not something that we can do.”
On Nov. 18, Orange County reported 628 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths. The total number of cases reported in the county is now 66,585, with 1,528 deaths.