Due to spikes in COVID-19 cases, and increasing hospitalizations, Orange County has been added to the state’s COVID-19 targeted monitoring program, according to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Orange County Health Agency reported 456 new COVID-19 cases, along with four deaths, on Monday, June 29. The city of Irvine reported half a dozen new cases on June 28, bringing the city’s total to 348. Irvine has reported 5 deaths since the pandemic began.

With cases and hospitalizations increasing in Orange County over a 14-day period, Newsom added the county to a list of 18 other “targeted counties,” which are currently being monitored for COVID-19 outbreaks.

The OC Health Agency shows an increase of 139 COVID-19 related hospitalizations between June 15 and June 29. The county’s number of ICU patients also increased from 138 to 175 during the same time period.

Orange County could be ordered to “reinstitute community measures,” as seen recently in Los Angeles. On Sunday, June 28, Newsom ordered the closure of bars in Los Angeles and recommended the closure of bars in several others counties to help slow the spread of the virus.

During a June 29 press conference, Newsom explained that the California Department of Health is now targeting 19 counties for what he referred to as a “dimmer switch” approach to reopening. Using this strategy, Newsom explained that counties will be able to adjust reopening plans efficiently.

In terms of a “dimmer switch” approach, Newsom explained the analogy is best suited for addressing the regional challenges of the virus, like relaxed social distancing and refusing to wear a face mask in public.

For several weeks, Orange County has been the center of controversy after the former county health officer resigned following backlash and a death threat after issuing an updated mask ordinance. Only days later, Newsom make masks mandatory across California.

However, Newsom estimates that those counties could be seeing the result of a rising community spread, due to the lack of mitigation.

“Diverse cities, diverse counties. Different parts of the state experiencing different challenges for different reasons,” he said. “You may see increases in certain counties, it may be primarily because of spread that exists for example, in a state prison — other parts of the state, in a federal prison. Others, have more generic community spread, it’s just people mixing and not wearing face coverings, and not practicing social distancing.”

“We’re actively monitoring all 58 counties in California, but we’re now targeting our monitoring in 19 counties,” Newsom said. “We added 4 more counties today – we added Solano, we added Merced County, we added Orange County and we added Glenn County.”

With Monday’s addition, Newsom said that more than 70 percent of California was being monitored. Newsom was joined by Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. Ghaly explained the criteria at which the county should prepare to “dim reopening.”

“We want no more than 25 cases per 100,000 people in a county reported as a case, over a 14 day period. We’re also looking at a test positivity rate of less than 8 percent,” Ghaly explained.

However, it seems Orange County has already surpassed those figures, according to OC Health Agency data.
While Newsom has ordered some pull-back on reopening measures, he mentioned that different counties will have different approaches on reopening, and ultimately the responsibility of reopening will be determined at the orders of the county health officer.