By Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager
Orange County’s COVID-19 metrics are continuing to trend in the right direction.
The County has remained in the red tier (“substantial” transmission) for 11 days under the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
This designation allowed some business sectors to reopen indoors as of September 8, with modifications and capacity limits, and other sectors to expand operations. And, if current trends continue, all K- 12 schools in the County could be eligible for reopening for in-person education as soon as September 22.
The State’s tiered system tracks two key COVID-19 metrics: average daily case rates per 100,000 population and the percentage of positive tests, known as the positivity rate. As of September 18, Orange County has 4.4 average daily cases and a 3.9 percent positivity rate. To move into the less restrictive orange tier (“moderate” transmission), the County will need to see average daily cases drop to less than 4, and the positivity rate stay below 4.9 percent.
Counties must stay in each tier for a minimum of three weeks and meet the criteria for the next tier for a minimum of two weeks. Visit http://www.COVID19.ca.gov for more information on the color-coded tier system, the current status of counties, and the businesses that are permitted to open or expand with each tier.
COVID-19 Cases in Newport Beach
As of September 18, the number of COVID-19 cases in Newport Beach was 1,106 and the total cases in Orange County was 51,646. The number of recovered COVID-19 patients countywide as of September 18 was 46,435.
These figures are provided to Orange County by the California Department of Public Health.
COVID-19 News and Resources
Three weeks ago, State officials unveiled the Blueprint for a Safer Economy (Blueprint), a new, four- tiered, color- coded system for re-opening California’s businesses. The Blueprint, that went into effect on August 31, replaces the County Data Monitoring List. It includes revised criteria and timelines and is designed to reopen businesses more gradually than the State’s previous process.
Counties will move through each of the four tiers based on two key metrics: case rates and the percentage of positive tests. Moving from tier to tier will require a 21-day wait time and counties will be required to meet the metrics for the next tier for two weeks in a row.
The State’s “COVID-19 Employer Playbook” includes guidance for workplace safety, best practices for an outbreak, testing information for employees, and more. The document, available at this link, provides useful information for business and industry to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and prepare for cases among employees.
The County of Orange continues to add new COVID-19 data and information to its website at https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. The County of Orange Healthcare Agency’s COVID-19 Hotline can be reached at (714) 834-2000, or by email at, [email protected]. County staff monitors the hotline and email box and answers questions about industry reopening and activity resumption, current guidance and more.
The County also maintains a growing list of FDA-approved testing sites for County residents who are essential workers or showing symptoms of COVID-19. If you are showing symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider for testing information first. If you do not have a healthcare provider, visit https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-testing-and-screening for testing information. The SOS Health Center in Newport Beach is an approved community testing site. Call (949) 270-2100 for an appointment.
Please visit www.newportbeachca.gov/covid19 for the latest City news and useful web resources, including information about the federal, state, and county resources available to help small businesses and workers that have been financially impacted.
Fire Rings Temporarily Closed Due to Air Quality Concerns
The City has temporarily closed all fire rings amid the unhealthy air quality that has resulted from regional wildfire smoke.
Fire rings will reopen when air quality returns to less harmful levels. For up-to-date information on local air quality, visit https://www.airnow.gov or the South Coast Air Quality Management District at http://www.aqmd.gov/home/air-quality/current-air-quality-data.
Labor Day Weekend Joint Efforts
Crews from the Public Works Municipal Operations Division and the Utilities Department worked on preparing and keeping the beaches and surrounding areas clean for the three-day Labor Day weekend.
Beach preparation efforts included the Peninsula and Corona del Mar beach areas from the Wedge to the river jetty. Attention was also given to McFadden Plaza, surrounding business sidewalks, Balboa Village, the Fun Zone area, Balboa Pier, Newport Pier and surrounding parking lots and streets. In addition, fire ring maintenance was conducted at Corona del Mar beach and Peninsula beaches.
Trash cans on the beach, boardwalk and parking lot areas were emptied by City contractors and City crews.
On Tuesday, crews from Municipal Operations and the Utilities Department crews continued the joint clean-up efforts.
John Wayne Airport’s General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP)
The multi-year planning and approval process for John Wayne Airport’s General Aviation Improvement Program (GAIP) came to a close earlier this week when the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved long-term leases with two of the companies that will build and operate the airport’s new general aviation facilities. Please read our September 16 Aviation Activities Update for details. The next step for the GAIP involves construction plans and permitting and that will be followed by the actual development of the new facilities.
Newport Beach Fire Dept. Helps Battle Regional Wildfires
Nearly 30 Newport Beach firefighters have been deployed during the past several weeks to help battle some of the record-breaking wildfires that have consumed more than 3.4 million acres throughout California so far this year.
As of Friday, September 18, 11 NBFD firefighters are deployed at four fires throughout the state: The Bobcat Fire in L.A. County, the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino, the Oak Fire in Mendocino, and the Creek Fire in Fresno. Those firefighters ended a two-week deployment on Saturday, September 19, and were replaced by a fresh crew of 8.
For more information visit https://www.newportbeachca.gov/Home/Components/News/News/38643/2720.
Newport Beach Central Library Opens Sept. 21 with Modified Hours and Services
The Newport Beach Public Library reopened the Central Library to the public with modified hours and services on Monday, September 21. The Crean Mariners Branch, Corona del Mar Branch and the Balboa Branch will remain closed due to limited space for social distancing and staffing considerations. The three branches will continue to offer Curbside Service.
Following State guidelines for the New Blueprint for Safer Economy Plan, the Library will begin restarting in-person services incrementally. Occupancy will be limited to a capacity of 100. Face masks will be required for both staff and the public entering the Library. The Library will offer a “grab and go” business model. Initial services offered will allow patrons to browse the shelves, check out materials, and manage accounts. Public computers will be available by appointment.
Until restrictions on gatherings and building capacity are lifted, the use of seating areas, study rooms, and program spaces will be prohibited.
In accordance with guidelines from the State of California, Newport Beach Public Library is implementing a variety of precautions to make the environment as safe as possible for staff and the public upon reopening. The Central Library is equipped with Plexiglass barriers at public service desks, social distancing demarcation signage, and hand-sanitizers.
The Library continues to encourage patrons to use Curbside Service, telephone reference and the Library e-Branch to facilitate social distancing at the Library. No programs will be offered at this time.
Hours of operation for the initial reopening will be as follows:
Central Library, 1000 Avocado Avenue: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
No Curbside Service at Central, holds can be picked up at the other branches.
Curbside Service Only for Mariners Library, 1300 Irvine Avenue: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Curbside Service Only for Balboa Branch Library, 100 E Balboa Blvd., Balboa Peninsula: Monday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Curbside Service Only for Corona del Mar Library, 410 Marigold Avenue, Corona del Mar: Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wildland Preparations Within the City of Newport Beach
The Newport Beach Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Division staff are completing its first round of vegetation inspections for the communities adjacent to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas. The Newport Coast communities’ work for this summer/fall season is complete. The City- owned properties are nearly finished in the Upper Buck Gully area as well as the Eastbluff areas near Back Bay. At the end of September, staff will be contacting property owners in the Middle and Lower Buck Gully areas to evaluate conditions in these neighborhoods.
In addition to field inspections, prevention staff is preparing a new public safety message regarding ember resistant zones for home protection or “hardening.” According to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, up to 90% of home and business ignitions during a wildfire are due to embers (https://ibhs.org/ibhs-news-releases/embers-cause-up-to-90-of-home-business-ignitions-during-wildfire-events). While direct flame contact is a concern, embers are the primary threat to homes. To address this threat, staff is preparing an educational program using information from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to let property owners know the importance of creating a five-foot, non-combustible zone around their homes. Moving mulch, flammable vegetation, and combustible materials away from the structure, as well as removing leaf litter from roofs, repairing roofs and rain gutters, reduces the opportunity for embers to start a fire. These low-cost improvements increase the survivability of a home during a wildfire event.
Staff will be updating the Fire Prevention Division’s website with program information; followed by a mail and social media campaign and staff presentations to homeowner associations and neighborhood groups. The combination of vegetation management and home improvements will provide increased protection for our neighborhoods from a future wildfire event.
The July 2020 Treasury Report is available on the City’s website at: www.newportbeachca.gov/treasury.
As of July, the City’s portfolio totaled just over $297 million. Approximately $75 million of the portfolio was invested in very liquid investments available for day-to-day operations and cash funding for major construction expenditures.
The short-term portfolio ($210 million) had a weighted average effective maturity of 1.79 years. The trailing twelve months’ total return was 4.51 percent. Our benchmark for the same period, the BAML 1-3 Year Treasury index, returned 4.29 percent. The income yield on the portfolio, a better measure of income derived from the portfolio, was 2.21 percent.
NEWPORT BEACH CULTURAL ARTS SEEKS COMMUNITY INPUT
In its ongoing effort to bring meaningful public art and cultural arts programming to the community, the Newport Beach City Arts Commission is seeking public opinion via an online Community Arts Survey.
Community input provides the needed support to create more dynamic public visual, performing and cultural arts programming for the enjoyment of residents and visitors in the community.
All participants who provide a valid email address will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. One (1) entrant shall be randomly chosen weekly during the survey period. Entrants are limited to one survey and must be over 18 years of age.
The online survey will be available from September 14 through October 19, 2020, and weekly winners will be notified via email.
To complete the survey, go to: https://www.newportbeachca.gov/Home/Components/News/News/38604 or contact the Cultural Arts Services Office at (949) 717-3802 for more information.
Addressing homelessness continues to be a priority in the City’s ongoing COVID-19 response, working closely with contractor City Net and regional partners throughout the county and state. Recently, people in Newport Beach experiencing homelessness have been placed in motels through Project Roomkey, a state initiative to provide shelter during COVID-19. Newport Beach staff and City Net staff are collaborating with the Illumination Foundation, a local non-profit agency working with the state to facilitate Project Roomkey.
- In the first week of September, nine military veterans and their families were housed through the County’s Coordinated Entry System. The Coordinated Entry System manages a roster of eligible veterans and works with service providers, such as City Net, to match veterans with housing opportunities.
- One woman experiencing a mental health crisis was placed into the County care system. The Homeless Liaison Officer worked with the County’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT). PERT staff are mental health clinicians who ride along with assigned law enforcement officers to address mental health related calls in the assigned city. PERT conducts risk assessments, initiates involuntary hospitalizations when necessary, and provides resources and education. The program also provides outreach and follow-up services. PERT may be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round, in multiple languages, at (866) 830- 6011.
- City Net staff assisted several people with completing their CalFresh applications. The CalFresh Program, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores. The CalFresh Program helps to improve the health and well-being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs. SNAP was established in 1977.
- Two people in Newport Beach experiencing homelessness were enrolled into City Net services, including one veteran. City Net staff completed Vulnerability Index Intake Assessments for each. The assessments are used to screen clients to determine proper placement in the County’s Continuum of Care system. Some assessment factors include age, health issues, and length of time being unsheltered. Case managers will follow up with the clients to provide housing assessments and prepare documentation for housing.
- City Net staff continues to provide support and case management to several elderly people sheltering in motels while they await placement into permanent, supportive housing.
The City Net hotline number is (714) 451-6198. Those who call the hotline may leave a detailed voicemail message for themselves or others in need and City Net staff will respond within 48 hours.
For immediate assistance call the County’s Crisis Prevention Hotline at (877) 7-CRISIS or (877) 727-4747. To enroll in Project Roomkey, call (714) 834-3000.