SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Orange County’s chief health officer resigned on Monday night after facing backlash over her countywide mask order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Nichole Quick had been receiving increased security after she began facing threats and protests at her home due to her health guidelines.
Quick issued an order on May 23 making face coverings a requirement while in public as other business operations, including in-person shopping, in-person dining, hair salons and barbershops were given the green light to reopen. Prior to that, masks were only mandated for employees interacting with the public.
“(Face coverings) can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19. There is evidence to support that and I feel strongly we need a face-covering order in place as we continue to send people out into more social
interactions,” Quick said.
An order amended on May 28 required the following, according to the county’s health webpage:
“Community members are encouraged to read the Orders and Strong Recommendations in their entirety here as well as the OC Health Care Agency’s press release here. The Order contains specific legal requirements that all OC residents and visitors must follow related to cloth face-coverings, appropriate self-quarantining and isolation related to a COVID-19 diagnosis or potential exposure, and actions that business, industry and other entity owners must take prior to re-opening under Stage 2.”
Quick did not make a public comment about her resignation on Monday night. Supervisor Doug Chaffee said she apparently resigned because the backlash “was too much for her. She has three young children and she’s been severely criticized by people who came out demanding her resignation, demonstrations in front of her home.”
David Souleles, who was deputy agency director of public health services in Orange County, also resigned in April.
Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau is expected to take Quick’s place as the chief health officer until she is able to be replaced. It’s unclear what will happen to Quick’s order but Chau has defended it in the past.
Quick said the mask order was an important step for public health, citing an increase in community transmission in Orange County, but she said she was willing to reconsider it.
“Like all things in COVID, we evaluate the data and evidence on a daily basis… As long as we’re seeing increasing numbers in the county… I feel the need for a face covering mandate,” she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends face coverings for “people older than 2 years of age in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” The exemption includes people younger than 2 years old and “anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
As of Monday, Orange County has reported 113 additional coronavirus cases, bringing the county’s totals to 7,527 cases as the number of fatalities remained at 177.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)