On Sunday, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s updated guidance for all communities throughout California to limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the city of Newport Beach declared a local emergency.
“This will allow the City of Newport Beach to potentially recover federal and state funds spent responding to the situation created by COVID-19 and to coordinate with other government agencies,” city officials wrote in a message on Sunday. “At this time, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in Newport Beach and the risk of contracting the virus in Orange County is still considered low.”
Mayor Will O’Neill called for a special meeting to ratify the decision. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. It is a open public meeting and video will be played live online on the city website.
Specifically, Newsom called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close throughout the state, urged all seniors and people with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves at home, and for restaurants to reduce occupancy by half to keep people farther away from each other.
“Based on the governor’s actions, the city is evaluating our practices and protocols to ensure alignment with the state guidelines,” city officials wrote.
The city activated the Emergency Operations Center to “enable the city to focus planning and resources” on the response and to help effectively handle the matter.
“The public health of our community is of the utmost importance,” officials confirmed.
At this time, the EOC is activated to a level two with limited staffing every day from 8 a.m.–5 p.m., explained city Life Safety Specialist Matt Brisbois in an email on Tuesday.
“We are continuously monitoring the ever changing nature of this pandemic,” he said.
City Hall and the Police Department will remain open to the public for essential services during the immediate coronavirus response, with social distancing measures in place, city officials wrote in another message on Monday. They encouraged the public to handle transactions by phone or email whenever possible.
City libraries and community centers were closed Monday.
The city’s open front counter services, including the permit center, cashier’s office and police department, will maintain six feet of social distancing.
For planning, building or fire permit applications, customers will be asked to leave applications at the front counter and wait in the nearby lounge while they are being processed.
Over-the-counter plan reviews will not be provided until further notice. Plan checks and revisions can be submitted for review (email is encouraged), but the city will not be providing any face-to-face plan check service, at least through the end of March.
The Cashier’s Office will continue to accept payments in person, though online payments are encouraged.
And, while the Newport Beach Police Department is also maintaining front-counter service, the public is encouraged to communicate by phone and email whenever possible, including the Police Department’s online reporting system at nbpd.org.
Most internal city meetings have been cancelled or postponed, or are taking place by phone or video conferencing. City Council meetings will continue as scheduled.
“These measures are among a series of steps adopted by the city of Newport Beach in recent days to protect public health and align with recommendations from the state Department of Public Health, federal Centers for Disease Control and Orange County Health Agency,” city officials wrote on Monday.
In an email last week, all program activities, events and trainings for the fire department’s Community Emergency Response Team program are cancelled through the end of April.
The CERT “Drill the Skills” scheduled for March 28 is also canceled/postponed.
“At this time, all Newport Beach CERT volunteers are encouraged to stay home, practice good social distancing (if they need to go out) and proper hand washing,” Brisbois, who heads up the CERT program, said in an email. “In an effort to protect our CERT volunteers from any potential exposure, at this time, we do not foresee any reason to activate them to assist with anything. Newport Beach City staff are ready, staffed and equipped to respond to this evolving emergency.”