Orange County officials frustrated over new stay-at-home order meant to help hospital capacity

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With a regional stay-at-home order from Gov. Gavin Newsom taking effect in Southern California Sunday night, Orange County officials expressed frustration over what they described to be a one-size-fits-all approach.

Newsom’s new three-week order, meant to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed amid a troubling coronavirus surge, is triggered when hospitals in a region comprised of several counties reach an intensive care unit capacity below 15%.

The new restrictions will go into effect in Southern California at 11:59 p.m. Sunday since ICU capacity stood at 12.5% Saturday, the California Department of Public Health said.

Counties can get out of the order after three weeks if the projected ICU capacity for the following four weeks reaches 15%.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner told KTLA he feels local leaders should be the ones making decisions about COVID-19 closures.

“I’m very frustrated by the new order,” Wagner said. “We’re not surprised by it, but I will tell you we’re enormously frustrated to have the governor changing rules, once again, and doubling down on his one size fits all approach, as opposed to allow the locals to make the decisions that are best.”

O.C. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel called on the governor to “stop these sweeping orders.”

“Governor Newsom’s lockdown order is not based on science, or any clear standards. Lumping together California’s diverse Counties into five regions fails to account for differences in population, hospital capacity, and the rate of COVID-19 spread in each County,” Steel wrote in a statement.

Orange County is seeing climbing COVID-19 hospitalization numbers along with the rest of the state, according to county data.

Many of the new restrictions are aimed at limiting the number of people gathering and risking spreading the virus. While health experts interviewed by the Los Angeles Times had mixed opinions over how effective rules like stopping outdoor dining and closing playgrounds are, they generally agreed that it’s the right approach.

Don Barnes, the county’s sheriff, said he does not plan to have deputies patrolling to enforce the order — calling compliance “a matter of personal responsibility and not a matter of law enforcement.”

In a written statement, he indicated deputies will not respond to calls about gatherings in violation of the health order. He said people should follow the state’s restrictions but “policy makers must not penalize residents for earning a livelihood, safeguarding their mental health, or enjoying our most cherished freedoms. “

The state announced the new stay-at-home order after troubling projections showed California could run out of ICU beds by Christmas.

California officials said the restrictions are meant to prevent the hospital system from being overwhelmed amid a rapidly-accelerating surge in coronavirus infection and hospitalization numbers.

“I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us — especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by. That’s why we leaned in to help our small business owners with new grants and tax relief to help us get through this month,” Newsom said this week.

While calculating the ICU capacity, California officials divide the state into five regions. One region labelled “Southern California” includes: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The ICU capacity is calculated based on the number of existing staffed ICU beds reported daily by hospitals without including available neonatal and pediatric ICU beds, CDPH said.

Since hospitals have the ability to increase capacity by adding more staffed beds, the number fluctuates, Los Angeles County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly explained.

In L.A. County, where COVID-19 numbers alarmingly continue to shatter records set each day, county Supervisor Hilda Solis praised the governor for new order.

“I commend Governor Newsom for taking this difficult but necessary measure so we can bend the curve of COVID-19 once again, and perhaps for the last time,” Solis wrote in a statement. “The transmission of COVID-19 is not limited to the borders of our county, and is killing people across the state and country at a terrible pace.”

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