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Costa Mesa creates Disaster Council to ramp up emergency preparedness

Sitting at least six feet apart, members of the Costa Mesa City Council meet Tuesday night to discuss the city's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Four council members participated remotely.
(Courtesy of city of Costa Mesa)

Costa Mesa is taking steps against the coronavirus, city leaders assured residents at a sparsely attended City Council meeting Tuesday night.

To shore up its emergency preparedness team, the council unanimously approved an ordinance to form a Disaster Council with authority to create emergency and mutual-aid plans.

Four of the seven council members participated remotely in light of protective measures in place to help curb the spread of the virus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The ordinance also clarifies the city’s capabilities in case of a local emergency, which Costa Mesa declared last week. The director of the Disaster Council — City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison — may make rules “reasonably related to the protection of life and property as affected by such an emergency,” “obtain vital supplies and equipment” and require city employees to deliver emergency services, the ordinance says.

The ordinance also creates the role of vice chair, which will be filled by emergency services administrator Jason Dempsey and allow him to jump city hierarchies to make emergency preparedness decisions.

“If we look at powers and duties … it’s more related to Disaster Council being a planning element that produces products that will ultimately come before [the City Council],” Dempsey said.

The council also voted 5-2 to waive parking citations during street sweeping and not enforce the street residential permit parking program until April 16. Council members Sandy Genis and Allan Mansoor dissented.

“When we take a program that’s been worked out over a long period of time involving hundreds of residents and just say, ‘Oh, never mind’ when it really relates very, very tangentially to the crisis at hand, that’s really disappointing,” Genis said.

Throughout the meeting, council members spoke of the uniqueness of the coronavirus situation and emphasized that everyone has a role in mitigating the spread of the virus.

“It’s time like these that we have to come together and work as a team,” Councilman Manuel Chavez said. “We’re all one family, we’re all in this together and it’s important for us to do our part.”

As of Wednesday morning, all movie theaters and fitness clubs in Costa Mesa were closed. Bars are closed and restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery, both in Costa Mesa and across Orange County, under a county health order issued Tuesday and in effect through March.

The Orange County Health Care Agency called for all non-essential gatherings outside of homes to end. Coronavirus cases countywide have risen to 29, according to the agency.

Costa Mesa City Hall and all other city facilities are closed to the public.

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