Orange County officials criticize state’s system for reopening during the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus

Orange County officials on Thursday criticized the state’s handling of reopening counties as major local theme parks including Disneyland remain closed over the coronavirus pandemic.

The county is not able to reopen parks like Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm since it has not yet entered the less restrictive yellow tier of the state’s plan. State officials said this week that California counties in that tier can reopen parks with some modifications.

Orange County is currently in the red tier, the second-most restrictive in the four-tier system.

On Thursday, county health officials reported another 213 cases and 11 more deaths, bringing the total case count since the start of the pandemic to 57,848 along with a death toll of 1,434.

The state is reopening each county through different color-coded tiers; counties can move between the tiers depending on their case rates and testing positivity rates. They remain within a certain stage for at least three weeks, and must hold data at certain levels during that time, before they can move into another tier.

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said he and other local officials have been vocal about their desire to reopen skateparks and “a smaller phase reopening of theme parks.” Earlier this month, Kim and Michelle Steel, the Board of Supervisors chair, both showed support for reopening parks.

“So those types of industries we believe certainly are outdoor and… we can meet with our industry sector and work out what we consider to be a so a safe reopening plan,” Kim said Thursday, noting he’s not a medical professional and would have to work with health officials.

Steel said Sacramento’s “top-down” approach to reopening California’s 58 counties through a uniform set of stages is “not working” and “isn’t productive.”

“I want to stress the point that the top-down approach to mitigating COVID-19 from Sacramento — it’s not working,” Steel said. “While most businesses have reopened, they’re still operating in a limited capacity due to state mandates.”

“Each local government has different issues affecting the spread of COVID-19,” Steel said.

Orange County officials have expressed opposition in the past to businesses closures and were reluctant to accept a mandate on wearing masks issued by a previous health officer who later quit. Dr. Nichole Quick resigned in early June after a resident threatened her life during a public meeting, blasting the mask requirement which had also drawn the ire of elected officials.

Under a new health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county eventually began requiring people wear face masks along with the rest of the state. On Thursday, Steel again reminded residents to “please wear a face covering when you are in a public place.”

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