Orange County continues to see a rapid rise in confirmed coronavirus infections, as its total case count hit 882 Monday — up more than 400 from a week ago.
Despite the steady increase — 172 new coronavirus infection cases have been reported in the last three days alone — county officials Monday announced the termination of a previously announced plan to use an Ayres Hotel in Laguna Woods as a temporary housing and medical facility for those who are homeless.
The proposal apparently withered in the face of strident opposition from residents of Laguna Woods Village, who objected to having homeless patients or the staff who care for them so close to their retirement community, which has thousands of residents who are older than 55.
“On Sunday, we were contacted by the Ayres Hotel and they respectfully asked to be released” from the agreement to use that site, County Executive Officer Frank Kim said.
“I assume it’s related to the community concerns that were expressed directly to the ownership and management of that particular hotel,” he said at a news briefing Monday.
Those concerns were readily apparent outside the hotel Saturday afternoon, where dozens of residents gathered to protest — at times shouting, “Don’t kill us,” and holding signs that read, “Exterminate seniors? COVID-19 beds in Laguna Woods = Death,” and “No! COVID-19 patients + retirement community = Death to our senior citizens.”
County officials said they still have an agreement in place to utilize another Ayres Hotel in Orange and are working to reach pacts with operators of other hotels and motels.
The county also is developing pop-up “sprung shelter” locations and continuing work to open a temporary facility at the former Joplin Youth Center in Trabuco Canyon.
From the county’s perspective, it’s vital to move people indoors quickly because an outbreak among the homeless population could further strain health systems. Officials also have said hotel and motel facilities will be locked down, with patients unable to leave freely or have visitors.
“Without a hotel or motel to house and isolate this population, it exposes the entire community to an increased risk of contact and of fewer beds at our local hospitals,” said county Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
Orange County announced Monday that 130 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized — 72 of them in intensive care.
The Orange County Health Care Agency cautioned that those numbers are gathered daily and can fluctuate based on changes in patient condition.
The county’s death toll remained at 14 in the latest update. Eight of the victims were at least 65 years old, and three were between the ages of 45 and 64.
Countywide, about 59% of all confirmed coronavirus patients are at least 45 years old.
To date, 10,489 people have been tested for coronavirus countywide.
As the case count grows, county officials are continuing to work to prevent the spread of the virus.
Supervisor Andrew Do said he would ask his board colleagues Tuesday to support requiring essential workers to cover their faces while at work.
“Last week, San Diego County changed its policy to start requiring face coverings for all employees who may have contact with the public in any grocery store, pharmacy/drug store, convenience store, gas station, restaurant, or other business establishment that serves food,” he said in a statement Monday. “I will make the same recommendation ... to protect our essential workers and each other.”
Officials also said it’s vital for residents to continue following health orders to stay at home as much as possible, and to keep others at a distance and wear some kind of face covering when they go outside.
“We are going to be in this for a while, and an end date is not something that any of us can put a measure on at any level in the country right now,” said David Souleles, deputy director of public health services for the county Health Care Agency. “We really have to watch the data … and keep up the good work of staying at home.”
The county also is seeking volunteers to assist with on-site and virtual projects related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We currently have several urgent needs and can match you based on skills, geography, populations served and availability to maximize disaster-recovery efforts,” officials wrote in an advertisement.
Interested individuals can register online at volunteers.oneoc.org/disaster.
#OCCOVID19 | We need your help! Here are the best ways to assist with efforts to minimize the spread of #COVID19 by volunteering or donating.Posted by Orange County, California - Emergency Operations Center on Monday, April 6, 2020
Officials also put out a call for donations to support vulnerable county residents.
Items being accepted at the Orange County Rescue Mission — 1 Hope Drive in Tustin — are baby formula, wipes and diapers; feminine pads and adult hygienic wipes and diapers/pads; grocery gift cards, protein bars and adult nutrition shakes.
All donated items must be new and unopened.
Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.