Orange County residents will either have to show proof of being vaccinated or a recent negative coronavirus test before being allowed large indoor venues like the Honda Center and the Anaheim Convention Center after the June 15 statewide reopening.
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On Friday, Secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, again said nearly all restrictions would go away.
But, indoor venues with more than 5,000 people will be required to check for vaccines or negative tests.
”Greater than 5,000 individuals in an indoor venue, we are requiring — requiring — a vaccine verification or negative test,” Ghaly said during a Friday news briefing. “You can’t verify that by just wearing a mask.”
Ghaly said the verification system will be recommended — not required — for outdoor venues with 10,000 or more people, like Angel Stadium.
State officials originally announced an end to capacity restrictions on businesses and social distancing early last month.
“I’m going to be pretty simple and straightforward with this,” Ghaly said Friday. “We will not have capacity restrictions.”
Earlier this week, Ghaly also said the state would implement the CDC’s updated mask guidance when the June 15 reopening hits.
The updated guidance allows for vaccinated people to ditch their masks, while keeping them for unvaccinated people indoors.
Ghaly said they’re working on guidelines for concert halls, sports arenas and other large indoor venues.
“We will be laying out pretty clear recommendations and guidelines on how that vaccine and negative test verification can occur,” he said.
Locally, some residents have been concerned about government-mandated vaccine passports.
Many residents have been railing against the idea of passports at OC Supervisors meetings for weeks.
County officials have repeatedly said they won’t mandate a passport system.
Last week, a majority of Orange County Supervisors voted to pause looking into providing people with digital proof of vaccination, following pushback from some residents.
On Friday, two county supervisors issued a statement raising concerns about “threats and intimidation” against county Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, stemming from a protest in front of his home earlier this week.
“…the Orange County Board of Supervisors strongly condemn the targeting of threats and intimidation towards [Chau] at his home by protestors, who wrongly accuse Dr. Chau of forcing people and children to get a COVID-19 Vaccine,” reads a statement posted on Supervisor Doug Chaffee’s Facebook page.
Despite local concerns about vaccine passports, Ghaly defended the state’s vaccine and test requirement for large, indoor venues.
“So because a negative test is an option, it sort of doesn’t require a vaccine passport to be able to do that. Because you can say look, I’ve been tested in the last 72 hours and I’m negative,” he said. “We are going to be providing more detailed information for partners across the state.”
Vaccinations in Orange County have dramatically dropped since mid-April, according to data from the OC Health Care Agency.
And the county-run vaccine supersites are slated to close by June 6 — local public health officials have said they’re going to switch to a neighborhood clinic approach.
“I think we’re also getting into the dangerous phase of people thinking well June 15 is coming, everything is opening back up, enough people are vaccinated — so why should I?” said Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers.
Becerra said the local health clinics have seen a dramatic drop in overall vaccinations.
But, she said, they’ve also seen more children coming to get shots now that kids as young as 12 years old can get vaccinated.
“We actually had a big uptick in those numbers,” Becerra said. “A lot of the youth who get vaccinated list their reasons for sports or graduation … or they simply want to go on vacation — they’re afraid there might be a requirement to show a vaccine record before getting on a plane.”
The clinics are aimed to serve low-income, often minority, working class communities.
Becerra noted many of the children the clinics are vaccinating aren’t from those communities.
“It’s surprising to me where the kids are coming from, because they tend to come from areas that are traditionally not where we vaccinate communities,” she said, adding children have been coming from places like Newport Beach, Lake Forest and Irvine.
Meanwhile, OC’s virus hospitalizations slightly dipped today.
As of Friday, 68 people were hospitalized, including 10 in intensive care units, according to the county Health Care Agency.
That’s the lowest number of people hospitalized in over a year.
The same trend is happening in statewide hospitalizations.
“A total of 1,326 individuals today were admitted to the hospital with COVID,” Ghaly said. “We haven’t enjoyed that low of a level since the very early months and weeks of the pandemic.”
Locally, the virus has killed 5,042 OC residents — more than nine times the flu kills on a yearly average.
COVID deaths surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC.
It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively.
Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.
Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.
According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.