The Orange County Board of Supervisors has announced a new widespread COVID-19 at-home testing program that will be available to all residents by the end of the year.

The kits will provide residents with a PCR saliva test, and can be mailed in for 24-hour results. In a partnership between Orange County and the Orange County-based Ambry Genetics, will provide more than 10,000 tests starting next week.

“We want to create a new testing initiative that will bring testing to you, to our residents, in a way that’s most accessible to you,” Fifth District Supervisor and Chairman Andrew Do explained during a press conference on Nov. 17. “Orange County is the first county in the nation to provide this saliva COVID-19 PCR test kits to our residents.”

Do added that Orange County will have more than 500,000 kits for residents by the end of the year.

In addition to the county’s first at home COVID-19 testing initiative, the board also approved a new “Cold Weather” grant program that will provide financial assistance to restaurants in order to comply with COVID-19 regulations.

During the county Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, Third District Supervisor Don Wagner and Chairman Do presented a new agenda item that would allocate funds for the purchase of equipment specifically for outdoor dining.

On Monday, Nov. 16, Orange County shifted back into the Purple Tier for COVID-19 monitoring, meaning all retail must reduce capacity to 25 percent. Gyms, churches, movie theaters and restaurants are no longer allowed to host activities indoors.

“Given the governor’s order, there is a need to take immediate action to assist Orange County restaurants to purchase equipment so they can continue to operate in compliance with the state mandated codes — meaning outside as the weather turns colder and rainier,” Wagner explained. “Supervisor Do and I are privileged to ask this board to approve the following recommended action and that is:

  1. Establish the Restaurant Outdoor Dining Grant Program to provide economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency and facilitate compliance with COVID-19 related public health measures.
  2. Authorize the County Executive Officer to allocate $1 million of CARES Act funding to the Restaurant Outdoor Dining Grant Program to provide $1,000 each for the sole purpose of purchasing heat lamps, heater, warmers, lighting, and or tent canopies, or coverings.
  3. Find under Government Code 26227 that Restaurant Outdoor Dining Grant Program will serve a public purpose at the County Of Orange and meet social needs of the population of the county, and otherwise the use of county staff and resources to support the program.”

The item, which was not on the meeting agenda, was unanimously approved by the County Board of Supervisors.  Over the last few months, Orange County has developed several outdoor dining programs designed to help struggling restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic.

In July, the City of Irvine became the first City in Orange County to offer appointment-based testing, at no cost to all residents and workers within the city.