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Multiple Orange County restaurants are staying open for in-person dining in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order meant to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus and avoid a flood of patients into hospitals.

Coming together in protest under the social media hashtag #OpenSafe, restaurant owners say will continue following safety protocols like providing distanced seating and requiring masks but won’t be following orders to halt in-person dining.

Some businesses, including Brewery X in Anaheim and Oak & Coal in Costa Mesa, are sharing a letter that begins: “We, as responsible small business owners and operators, do herby declare our intention to protest the current stay at home order and to maintain our safety standards of service as set by county and state health guidelines.”

Mike Vinson — co-owner of Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, which has five locations in Fullerton, Brea, Orange, Cypress and Anaheim Hills — described it as a “peaceful protest.”

“We can’t tell our employees that they’re not going to get a check,” Vinson said. “Me and the wife just decided that we can’t do it. It’s not that we won’t. We can’t.”

Vinson described a dire situation, one echoed by restaurant owners across the state who are struggling to stay afloat as health officials fight to contain the virus and prevent more COVID-19 deaths.

“It’s a tough situation, and we understand both sides. We try to keep it safe as we possibly can for the people,” Vinson said, standing in front of the cafe where people were eating outdoors.

Dozens of Orange County restaurants, including some in Newport Beach and Tustin, have been taking to Instagram to announce that they’re open since the order went into effect across the region earlier this month.

“We stand with the other small businesses who are taking a stand to ensure our staff and their families have food on their table,” Costa Mesa’s Paragon Cafe owners wrote on Instagram.

Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order that banned in-person dining and closed hair salons, barbershops, card rooms and other businesses came as the state was hit with an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Orange County is no exception.

There was a record number of people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Orange County this weekend — an alarming milestone that came days after the county’s director of emergency medical services said the system “may collapse” due to an overwhelming spike in patient numbers, and directed all hospitals to cancel all elective surgeries. 

More than 102,514 have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 1,694 who have died, according to data from the O.C. Health Care Agency.

Orange County leaders have been vocal in opposing the new restrictions.

Supervisor Don Wagner, who previously called the governor’s order “a one-size-fits-all approach,” was one of the speakers at a march to call for reopenings Sunday.

The rally drew around 200 demonstrators making their way down 17th Street in Newport Beach, passing businesses filled with patrons who cheered for the protesters, the O.C. Register reports.

“People must be able to provide for themselves and their families,” Wagner tweeted in sharing information for the march.

Restaurants and other businesses have been hit hard by the months of closures and restrictions that came with the pandemic.

But health officials say the new restrictions are necessary, especially as the region’s available intensive care unit capacity dips below 15%.

Just 4.2% of the Southern California region’s adult ICU beds were available Sunday.