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Newport Beach restaurant Javier’s closes after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

A man in a mask walks along Harbor Boulevard in downtown Fullerton last week.
A man in a mask walks along Harbor Boulevard in downtown Fullerton last week.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

An upscale restaurant in Orange County closed this week after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

Javier’s restaurant in Newport Beach announced it was closing Tuesday after at least one employee tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Javier’s wrote on Instagram that it was voluntarily closing the location for deep cleaning and testing. The restaurant, which specializes in Mexican cuisine, plans to reopen July 1.

“At Javier’s, the health of our guests and employees is our top priority,” the Instagram post read.

Orange County officials began working with Javier’s on Wednesday, said Molly Nichelson, a spokeswoman for the county.

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The A Restaurant in Newport Beach, which first opened nine decades ago under the name the Arches, also closed for two days beginning Tuesday to clean and test employees, according to a post on the eatery’s Instagram account. County health officials would not confirm whether the closure was prompted by an outbreak at the location.

A representative for the restaurant did not return a phone call seeking further comment Thursday.

County officials said that if a staff member at any business reports having COVID-19, the public health services team will reach out to the facility to provide guidance.

“If there is a cluster of cases, depending on the number of cases and the size of the facility, we may either mandate that all staff be tested and/or a facility close for a period of time until it is clearly safe to reopen,” Marc Meulman, chief of operations for Orange County Public Health Services, said in a prepared statement.

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The news of the temporary closures comes a day before more industries are set to reopen in Orange County.

Beginning Friday, a wave of personal-care businesses, including nail salons and massage therapy and tattoo shops, will be permitted to open after months-long closures.

The news comes as L.A. County officials announced 1,051 new cases and 36 additional coronavirus-linked deaths, sending the county’s death toll past 3,000.

“While we have continued to reopen businesses, these hardworking businesses were excluded,” said Michelle Steel, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “It has been far too long, and these businesses have suffered as a result.”

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The county has experienced a rise in hospitalizations and deaths since businesses began reopening last month.

Coronavirus-related intensive care hospitalizations have jumped 76% in the last six weeks in the county. During the week of May 4, the county reported a seven-day average of 94 people with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections in its ICU beds. Last week, that number rose to an average of 165 hospitalized.

In early May, the number of people hospitalized for the virus in Orange County was in the low 200s. A month later, those figures had jumped to the high 200s and low 300s. On Thursday, the county reported that 345 people were being treated at hospitals for COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic. Of those being treated at hospitals, 144 were in intensive care units.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

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The county reported 132 new coronavirus cases Thursday, bringing the total number of infections to 9,292. Officials also reported seven additional fatalities, bringing the countywide death toll to 250. Nearly 4,500 people who previously tested positive for the virus have recovered, data show.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care, following growing concerns that an increase in coronavirus cases has been caused by residents failing to voluntarily take that precaution.

While the necessity of face coverings has been widely discussed in several Southern California communities, mask politics have been especially potent in Orange County. The debate in the county came to a head last week when the new health officer rolled back a mandatory order on face coverings within days of his predecessor’s resignation and amid pressure from the Board of Supervisors.

In a letter sent last week to the Board of Supervisors, top medical officials at Children’s Hospital of Orange County noted that they have been watching the escalating debate over face coverings with “deep concern.” They wrote that the debate has signaled “a level of public disrespect for medical science that we believe puts Orange County at serious risk.”

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Dr. Shruti Gohil, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention at UC Irvine, said face coverings, in addition to frequent hand washing, are helpful in reducing the spread of infection as communities reopen and physical distancing becomes less possible.

“In my opinion, if we want to reengage, we have to put all of our energy into figuring out how to shave off every piece of risk that we can, reasonably, without crippling our society,” she said.

“I do think it’s hard for the public to digest what the right steps are, and I think in a time of pandemic, it is nice to have authorities steer the ship as stably as possible. I do think that perhaps the governor’s move allows for that at some level.”


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