O.C. health officials mull shutting down bars as 779 new COVID-19 cases reported

Health officials in Orange County are closely monitoring the rise in coronavirus cases after seeing the largest number of reported cases Tuesday.

A total of 779 new cases and 10 new deaths were reported by CalREDIE, the California Department of Public Health’s case reporting system — a large increase from Monday’s 456 cases. Dr. Clayton Chau, the county’s interim county health officer, said while the steep numbers are alarming, some of the positive cases are from the past two weeks.

“While COVID-19 cases are increasing in Orange County, the state surveillance system (CalREDIE) experienced down time on 6/26-6/27, which created a backlog of cases that we are resolving in current reporting updates,” the county said Tuesday afternoon on its COVID-19 resource page.

Still, Chau said he is currently considering issuing a new health order to close bars after the county was placed on the state’s coronavirus watch list Monday.

“We are in consideration about that right now and I am looking at the data,” Chau said at a Tuesday news conference. “So, yes, there will be more to come on that.”

Countywide, there have been 13,843 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 340 people have died. As of Tuesday, more than 233,000 residents had been tested for COVID-19 and 510 patients infected with the virus were hospitalized.

Chau said it is imperative all residents wear face coverings, frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing whenever possible.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said she is also very concerned with the spike in COVID-19 cases and the controversy around the use of face coverings.

“Young adults 18-30 are really where we are starting to see huge numbers, they’re just out in the community partying like nothing is happening here,” Foley told KTLA. “It’s really very simple. I am not sure how it became so political.”

Another demographic which has become a concern is the increased level of COVID-19 infections seen in the Latino community. With funding secured by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, a UC Irvine study found that eight out of the 10 highest infection areas in Orange County are in the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana.

“We are seeing disparate impacts that closely align with income, since many lower-income residents are also essential workers who have to violate social distancing as part of their work,” Andrew Do, board vice-chair, said in a statement. “The concentration of COVID-19 cases is also the result of shared, overcrowded, and multi-generational housing, particularly in North and Central Orange County and largely in the Latino communities.”

In order to address what the county calls the “most critically at-risk communities,” Do on Tuesday announced the formation of the COVID-19 Latino Health Equity Initiative. The special program will provide community outreach, education about available support resources, increased access to testing and mobile COVID-19 response teams at schools to teach proper hygiene when kids go back to the classroom.

“We want to be culturally sensitive and to respond effectively in a way that will penetrate these disadvantaged communities,” Do said.

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