The Orange County Board of Supervisors discussed the county’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the prospect of holding a National Homeless Persons’ Day, and a new $10 million small business grant during a Dec. 15 meeting in Santa Ana, California.
The largest topic of discussion for the meeting was Orange County’s anticipated arrival of 25,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Dec. 16.
“This first shipment will go to health care providers, providers who are working day-in and day-out taking care of people who ended up in the hospital and who are showing up to the emergency room,” Orange County Heath Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau told the board.
Chau, who is also the county health officer, added that the first shipment of doses is just the start, with 32,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine coming within a week.
Prior to vaccine discussions, the meeting heard from numerous public speakers who were frustrated at the supervisors for not defying Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
“I came out here today to speak my voice as a free American,” said Orange County resident Mark Simon. “I believe shutting us down goes against the Constitution, goes against freedoms and rights of Americans, and the wars that we fought for freedom are not being honored here. [The supervisors] continue to keep us shut down.”
Supervisor Don Wagner said during the meeting that he shares the frustration about the economic effects of the shutdown, but due to Newsom’s order, supervisors are not able to open up the county.
“I share, and every one of my colleagues up here shares, every bit of the frustration we hear from the speakers out there about the effects of the shutdown, the effects of the lockdown, and the effects on children, their mental health, or physical health, and the bankruptcies that are staring people in the face, especially now as we get into the holiday season, and it is so disheartening to hear those stories,” Wagner said.
Chau said it is important to follow the science in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The science, the wearing of the masks, the physically separating from people, that is the only thing that still works to stop the spread of the virus,” Chau said. “Let’s make that very, very clear. There’s no argument on the other side of it. We know why we have an increase in cases in this country.”
Chau also expressed concern about the lack of hospital beds in the county, pleading with residents to follow state guidelines and not gather with others from different households.
Wagner challenged Chau on increased hospitalizations, saying that many other California counties are in a similar situation in terms of hospital beds.
“San Francisco was overwhelmed. … Central Valley is in the same situation. San Diego, where they had a—somewhat vigorously enforced by the sheriff—mask mandate, and [they had] pretty much the same situation as us,” Wagner told Chau.
“You are not saying that our impact in the emergency rooms is because the sheriff hasn’t enforced a mask mandate, or because of the political leadership, or because of efforts to open this state, or because Orange County being uniquely unwilling to follow health guidance, correct?”
Chau followed up by saying that while he believes most county residents are following guidelines, Orange County is known as the anti-mask county.
Honoring the Homeless
The meeting also featured a resolution by supervisors Andrew Do and Doug Chaffee to proclaim Dec. 21 as “National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.”
An unidentified public commenter noted that “329 deaths have occurred this year [due to homelessness] compared to 209 in 2019.”
“This is nothing short of unacceptable. We know that homelessness is deadly and homes save lives,” the commenter said.
“Moving forward, we urge you to stop the needless deaths and ensure that every person in this rich county who lacks a safe, portable home has access to one. Continued spiraling poverty will only increase these numbers if we continue to ignore the benefits of housing rather than shelters. As a vibrant community, we must let our fellow citizens know they’re human beings with certain inalienable rights.”
Do said, “This is something that we have been contemplating for a while, and it really marks acceptance that homelessness is an issue that we’ve taken on in earnest by this board for many years, but certainly including many of the projects just this year alone.”
Small Business Support
Additionally, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Do to establish a $10 million small business economic support program for Orange County businesses hurt by the continued shutdowns.
“To say that COVID-19 has been a major challenge for all businesses, particularly small businesses, is an understatement,” Do said. “And this board has endeavored whenever possible, during this pandemic, to bring real and meaningful assistance to our businesses.”
Each supervisor will be given an equal share from the funds to support small businesses in his or her district. The allocation will come from the county’s general funds.