Members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors grilled Health Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau on July 28 over the California county’s response to COVID-19, expressing frustration in not receiving data directly from hospitals in order to foster accurate policy-making decisions.
Chau told the board at its weekly meeting that hospitals are struggling to provide up-to-date reports, making it difficult to accurately analyze information regarding the spread of the disease. He said hospital staffs are fatigued due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, and have requested staffing support from the state.
Vice Chairman Andrew Do said the board had been forced to rely on multiple reports to make its decisions, and sometimes those narratives don’t coincide.
“It is very difficult for a policy-setting body like this board to be able to come up with policy when we don’t have data,” Do said.
County officials on July 28 reported 187 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths, bringing the overall totals to 34,833 cases and 581 fatalities.
With over 150 cases per 100,000 citizens, the county remains on the state's watch list for counties with high case rates and hospitalizations. The county's rate of positive tests stands at just over 11 percent, compared to the state's goal of 8 percent.
Supervisor Donald Wagner questioned the legitimacy of the state’s testing strategies, asking what the point of continuing to increase available testing was if the results weren’t always accurate.
“We can’t be expected to make the best possible decisions without the best possible information. ... We don't even trust our own testing,” Wagner said.
Wagner asked for the science that supports forcing someone to quarantine for 14 days, if they said they had been exposed but the test results came back negative.
"There is a false negative to the tests," Chau said. A false negative result occurs when a test comes back negative, when in fact the patient is positive for the infection.
Wagner then proposed for the county to impose a mandatory lockdown that would force citizens to stay inside for 14 days without leaving their homes to effectively stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Effectively eliminating COVID-19 was not that simple, Chau said—there would still be potential for the disease to spread, even with a mandatory quarantine. He said a conversation had started with local hospitals to facilitate getting more accurate information directly from them.
Wagner, Do, and Chairwoman Michelle Steel requested that Chau speak to state officials about getting hospitals to refine information regarding people who check in for other health reasons but are ultimately diagnosed with COVID-19.
Supervisor Lisa Bartlett also urged Chau to press the state for the reopening of indoor shopping malls, saying they are better suited than outdoor malls to allow for social distancing.
Chau said the county's recommendations for social distancing, hygiene, and mask wearing have contributed to slowing the spread of the disease.