By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) —  The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved two grants to help several businesses continue to operate, now that the county has officially slipped back into the purple tier of the state’s reopening roadmap.

The supervisors unanimously approved $1 million in CARES Act funding to provide grants of $1,000 each to eateries that need to buy heaters, lamps, canopies, and other equipment needed to serve customers outside now that the winter months are approaching.

The supervisors also approved $5 million in CARES Act funding for childcare providers. The county previously allocated $5 million for the same purpose, but that popular grant program ended at the end of last month. Officials said there is a great need for the program in light of a dearth of childcare in the county that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sammy Montoya, owner La Chiquita Restaurant, said his staff had to pivot quickly to be able to operate outdoors.

“So it’s either do this spend money or close the doors and go home,” he said. “We closed the doors in March for three months. We don’t want to do that.”

Dozens of speakers at the weekly board meeting asked them to defy the state’s new restrictions, which were announced Monday.

Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, said that the county does not have the authority to ignore the state’s orders.

RELATED: Orange County To Provide 500,000 At-Home Coronavirus Test Kits To Residents By Year’s End

“There is a lot of suffering in our county and throughout our country,” Do said. “This board, and all of us on the board, are sympathetic and empathetic.”

Do added, “The check and balance here is between the executive and legislative branches and we have not heard from the legislative. Why not? We don’t know. There is one party very much in the majority and I see this as a dereliction of their duty, the responsibility in the legislature to not push back or to even question at least or require the articulation of standards and to defend the actions and changes.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said that the county’s medical centers are well prepared to handle a surge in cases.

“We were solidly in the red tier for probably two months and to take a broad brush and apply it to all the counties in Southern California — for us to be thrown in the same tier — we have plenty of capacity in our hospital system,” Bartlett said. “We feel like all the counties are being punished… in the same program… (But) every county is a bit different. We need to have a more individualized prediction in each county about their capacity to handle a rise in cases. In Orange County, we’re very prepared, our healthcare system is
very prepared.”

Supervisor Doug Chaffee argued that the abrupt change in circumstances that come along with the state’s new guidelines is not helpful for businesses or constituents.

“Whatever I shared with my constituents last week is now wrong and that makes it very difficult to move forward,” Chaffee said. “So that’s another thing I would hope that the governor addresses better in the future — to allow time for a transition rather than the abrupt changes that we’re seeing.”

Under the previous rules, the county would have to be meeting the metrics of the more restrictive tier for two weeks, and then they would be given three days to make changes to meet the guidelines. On Monday, Gov. Newsom pulled the state’s “emergency brake” and issued new guidelines requiring the counties to adhere to tighter restrictions within 24 hours.

Orange County reported another 352 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, raising the cumulative count to 65,957. There were no new fatalities reported for the second day in a row, so the death toll remains at 1,526.

Although cases have been sharply increasing, virus-related deaths have been decreasing over the past few weeks. However, Bartlett warned that deaths are often a lagging indicator and, as hospitalizations increase, fatalities will eventually do so as well.

Hospitalizations rose from 257 on Monday to 270 on Tuesday. The number of ICU patients decreased from 85 to 79.

The percentage of people who test positive who require a hospital stay has crept to 12%, according to Bartlett.

The county’s positivity rate, which has been reported each Tuesday but was moved up to Monday, jumped up from 3.3% last week to 4.6%, and the daily case rate per 100,000 population increased from 5.6. to 10.8.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)


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