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California

Orange County imposes unprecedented restrictions as coronavirus cases hit 29

Orange County supervisors and coronavirus
Orange County supervisors from left, Donald P. Wagner, Supervisor, Andrew Do, and Vice Chair Michelle Steel, discuss county’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic at the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County’s more than 3 million residents awoke to sweeping new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The county now has 29 confirmed cases of coronavirus. There have been no deaths in the county.

Cases

15 Travel-related
5 Person-to-person spread
8 Community-acquired
1 Under investigation

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The restrictions

Gatherings: Gatherings of any size outside of a single living unit are prohibited.

Ordered to close: All bars and other establishments that serve alcohol and not food.

Restaurants: May offer food only by delivery, pickup or drive-through.

Effective: Now through March 31.

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Guidance

“We are taking these mitigation steps in line with a directive issued by Governor Newsom to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said in a statement. “We recognize community members may experience anxiety related to the social disruption caused by COVID-19, and want to encourage residents to reach out to loved ones using appropriate methods like telephone, video messaging, email and text.”

“Any person who violates or who refuses or willfully neglects to obey this regulation is subject to fine, imprisonment, or both,” the order states. It cites California’s Government Code, which provides for fines of up to $1,000, six months in jail or both.

Along with the other measures, the order reiterates previous recommendations for people 65 and older or with preexisting health conditions — who are considered most at risk of serious effects from COVID-19 — to stay home.

All residents are urged to keep at least a 6-foot separation from others, except family members.

The restrictions led some to believe that Orange County had issued what amounted to a shelter-in-place order, similar to those in effect in at least 10 counties in the Bay Area and Central California and the city of Palm Springs.

Those measures direct residents to stay home as much as possible and have forced all but essential businesses to close.

Orange County officials, however, stressed Tuesday evening that its recent health order was neither a lockdown nor an order to shelter in place, noting that “it is important for all Orange County businesses to remain open while practicing social distancing consistent with the governor’s guidance.”

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“Unfortunately, the order as written caused widespread confusion,” officials said in a statement. “In order to provide additional clarity requested by Orange County residents and businesses, the county will be issuing an amended health officer’s order.”

Southern California counties have taken different approaches on the coronavirus with rules for businesses and gatherings. Here’s what you can do where.

Changes

With schools closed, some city governments are also changing practices.

For example, Newport Beach is closing all city facilities to the public, including City Hall and the Police Department, through the end of the month to help slow the transmission of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the city said late Tuesday afternoon.

Huntington Beach followed suit Tuesday night, closing City Hall, shutting all other city facilities and canceling meetings of boards, commissions and advisory groups.

Even before the restrictions, many businesses were also being hit.

Among those now-shuttered spaces is South Coast Plaza. The renowned Costa Mesa shopping center closed Monday night and will remain so for two weeks after a store employee tested positive for the virus Sunday night.

“Our understanding that closures of public gathering places in Orange County are important for a chance to meaningfully stem this pandemic is the reason we took this action,” mall spokeswoman Debra Gunn Downing said in a statement. “Although [the employee testing positive] is not the reason for the center’s closure, it reinforced the need for us to take action.”


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