O.C. public health leader resigns as officials keep beaches open, mandate facial coverings

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Health officials in Orange County reported 78 new coronavirus cases and two new deaths Thursday, ahead of the county’s new mandatory face mask rule that will go into effect Friday.

There was a total of 1,827 confirmed cases countywide as of Thursday and 36 deaths, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported.

Currently, 158 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 59 who are in intensive care units, according to the agency.

Anaheim continues to have the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases with 239, followed by Santa Ana with 202 and Huntington Beach with 162.

The Orange County Health Care Agency shared a graph of coronavirus cases in the county on April 23, 2020.
The Orange County Health Care Agency shared a graph of coronavirus cases in the county on April 23, 2020.

County’s public health leader in charge of testing resigns

For the second time during the pandemic, one of the leaders of the O.C. Health Care Agency, deputy director David Souleles, abruptly resigned and announced his retirement Wednesday, after 16 years working for the county. His last day will be May 1.

“Together as a team we have done great work to protect and improve the health of our community,” his resignation letter stated. “As the HCA makes plans for ongoing leadership in Public Health Services, please know that this institution is bigger than any one of us…”

Assistant director Lilly Simmering was named as the interim replacement Thursday, and a new director would be announced Monday, officials said.

The move comes after director Richard Sanchez also left the job last month.

Souleles, who led many of the county’s press briefings throughout the pandemic, resigned a day after announcing the county’s new coronavirus testing effort.

The new O.C. COVID-19 Testing Network is meant to ramp up testing by setting up more testing locations throughout the county. Residents experiencing symptoms can now get tested at the following locations:

  • AltaMed Medical Group, Anaheim
  • AltaMed Medical Group, Santa Ana/Bristol
  • AltaMed, Huntington Beach
  • Nhan Hoa Comprehensive Health Care Clinic, Garden Grove
  • UCI Health, multiple locations

More than 20,800 people have been tested throughout the county, with 671 tests conducted on Wednesday.

For coronavirus testing appointment information visit ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus and click on COVID-19 Testing and Screening, or call the HCA’s Health Referral Line at 800-564-8448. 

Some beaches remain open

Although cases continue to rise, some O.C. beaches remain open. County health officials were debating whether to close all beaches and trails as a heat wave hit Southern California, to prevent people from flocking outdoors and spreading the virus further.

All beaches in L.A. County, meanwhile, remain closed.

Orange County previously closed parking lots, piers, parks and trails near beaches to limit access.

Seal Beach and Laguna Beach are among the O.C. cities that have closed their beaches amid the pandemic.

Mandatory facial coverings

The mandatory facial covering ordinance will take effect in Orange County on Friday, requiring essential workers who interact with the public to wear face masks.

Previously, the use of facial coverings was only a recommendation by county health officials, although some cities in O.C. were requiring them in some public spaces.

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