Supervisors Quarrel Over COVID-19 Mandates

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
June 22, 2021 Updated: June 23, 2021

The Orange County Board of Supervisors and members of the public sparred June 22 over whether to continue the county’s state of emergency.

Supervisors said during the meeting that the money the county receives from the State of California by declaring a state of emergency helps fund its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we were to cancel this health order, it would make no change in people’s lives. The state guidance will still apply,” Supervisor Andrew Do said. “In fact, all we can do is take the risk of shooting ourselves in the foot by being denied funding.”

The board voted unanimously to keep its state of emergency status, with Do suggesting the county should lift it when Gov. Gavin Newsom ends California’s state of emergency order.

Some residents spoke in opposition to maintaining the county’s state of emergency.

“You need to end this ridiculous nonsensical state of emergency. [It] is doing nothing but harming every citizen of our country, including the children,” one speaker told the board. “Suicide rates and eating disorders for them have gone up. Not to mention how far behind they all are in school compared to children in red states. People have lost their jobs for no reason.”

Improving Metrics

The county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is at 0.7 percent and case rates are 0.9 per 100,000, said Orange County Health Care Agency director Dr. Clayton Chau.

As of June 22, 54 residents were hospitalized, including 14 people in the intensive care unit.

Chau said that 68.3 percent of eligible county residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Business Mandates

Other speakers expressed concerns over guidelines following the state’s June 15 economic reopening. Although business are now allowed to operate at full capacity, unvaccinated Californians are still expected to wear masks while in public.

Chau said it was up to the individual businesses to follow the state mandates and choose how to enforce them.

Supervisor Katrina Foley followed Chau’s response with concerns regarding the county’s unclear policies and enforcement.

“I can’t understand how we could have a policy that says you assume a person’s been vaccinated if they’re not wearing a mask,” Foley said. “That’s putting our employees at risk. That’s putting the public at risk.”

Foley was referring to the county guidelines that say employers are not to question public building visitors about their vaccination status or monitor face mask usage. She said the county was violating state health laws with its handling of its mask and vaccination policies.

“How do we comply with the California Department of Public Health laws, if we don’t ask people to attest whether they’ve been vaccinated, and if not vaccinated require them to wear masks?” she said.

“If a person is unwilling to attest that they have a vaccine, then they should wear a mask. If a business or public entity is not wanting to question people about their vaccine status, they should default to everyone wears a mask, until we can get to herd immunity. And then, finally, there is a digital vaccine record option where the state has implemented the QR code that we were unwilling to do, and they could show that they have been vaccinated in that manner.”

Supervisor Don Wagner agreed with Foley’s statement of confusion over the inconsistent guidelines, stating that they are incoherent and haphazard in their enforcement.

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna