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Opinion

Commentary: Orange County is ready to lead the way to a sensible, safe reopening

Signs remind visitors to Newport Pier to keep their distance to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
(Daily Pilot)

As we continue battling the novel coronavirus and work diligently to safely get our small business and workers on solid footing, let me make one thing clear: I always have and always will fight for the citizens of Orange County.

When the governor arbitrarily singled out Orange County, despite all of the hard work we’ve done fighting COVID-19, I had to speak out.

It was as much about ensuring fair treatment as it was about the effort and sacrifice our community has made, which is allowing the county to seek reopening our economy on an expedited basis.

On Feb. 26, at a time when there were no reported COVID-19 cases in Orange County, we declared an emergency and continued to work hand-in-glove with the state on our response efforts. That is why our COVID-19 numbers compared to our region are low.

Putting in place all of the restrictions so to “flatten the curve” was done to slow the spread of the virus and not overwhelm our health care system. Our health care system is doing well, nowhere near capacity of beds.

We also will continue to grow our testing capabilities. In April we launched a testing network which already has several sites. The state is also expanding testing guidance allowing for the testing of asymptomatic individuals.

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We have and will continue doing everything we can to protect our citizens while safely beginning the process of opening our economy.

As we work on the process of recovery, I recently established the Orange County Business Recovery Adhoc Committee, which outlined guidelines and best practices for our businesses and the public.

We have asked our local city council members and mayors, business leaders and public health experts to join in forging a responsible and effective plan to mitigate the economic damage we’ve experienced from COVID-19.

The importance of getting our local small businesses back on their feet cannot be overstated. They are service providers, employers and pillars of our community. I believe every business is essential in putting food on the table.

As someone whose parents once owned small businesses, I know first-hand trying to reopen after closing is sometimes nearly impossible, and we simply cannot allow that here at home.

Nearly every week I field calls from business owners who have been forced to lay off employees or employees who are barely scraping by.

This simply cannot go on forever.

The state has begun a process of reopening, and Orange County is more than ready to lead on this front.

The key, of course, is approaching our recovery with a sense of balance and the health and safety of all citizens being paramount.

From the earliest days of COVID-19, the Board of Supervisors sought every opportunity to assist our citizens whether advocating for the state to delay property tax payments or hosting tele-town halls to ensure the most updated information is being provided.

From the county perspective we’ve worked diligently to align ourselves with California state directives.

We’ve sought to ensure health and safety while at the same time trying to allow some sense of everyday normalcy to remain intact.

That’s required change and sacrifice.

None of this means our work is done.

We are asking citizens to remain diligent and practice safe social distancing and take the necessary precautions like wearing face masks because that is key to ensuring we get to the next steps.

Not every decision we make will be perfect and not everyone will always be happy and, unfortunately, not all of our elected officials are quick to defend our home.

But, rest assured, as we enter the next stages of our battle with COVID-19, know that every decision made is one with health and safety being first among others.

Our community has done its part and is ready to get our economy safely moving again.

The writer is a member of the Orange County board of supervisors.

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