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UC Irvine partners with O.C. businesses to develop safe reopening protocols

An entry sign to UC Irvine
UC Irvine is providing consulting services to private businesses to develop rules and procedures to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19 as the economy starts to open up.
(Steve Zylius / UC Irvine)

UC Irvine is providing consulting services to private businesses to develop rules and procedures to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19 as the economy starts to open up.

“As the only program in public health in Orange County, we have an obligation to assist our community,” UCI professor Karen Edwards said in a press release. “I think there’s a gap in this area for us to step up and offer these types of services. This has the potential to have a major positive impact.”

Orange County was on track to move into the state’s less restrictive orange tier until the average new daily case rate climbed this week. The county is currently in the red tier, the state’s second-most restrictive tier.

The county saw its highest total deaths in a single day on Tuesday at 33.

UC Irvine is providing the consulting services to businesses with which it has already established relationships.

Currently, the school is working with three different business, including the Irvine Co. and Pacific Symphony. UCI spokesman Tom Vasich declined to identify the third business.

Organizers announced the 2020-21 Pacific Symphony concert season would be postponed to 2021-22, as concert halls remain closed during the pandemic. But staff and musicians are finding new ways to keep the music alive.

UC Irvine is also currently negotiating with two other businesses.

The college already helped the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point put together a revised plan as well as a 45-minute training video for staff.

The effort required a detailed safety plan to deal with the hotel’s 175 acres of hotel accommodations, dining, golfing, spa and fitness services. The resort is using a variety of safety protocols, including deep cleaning and sanitization, physical distancing, reduced seating capacity in restaurants, screening staff and keeping doors open in communal areas.

“For Orange County to be able to reopen safely, it can’t just be public health experts saying we need to implement the kinds of policies and procedures that will keep everyone safe,” said Edwards, chair of epidemiology at UCI. “Businesses have to want to do that too. ”

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