By Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager
There was good news this week with Orange County’s COVID-19 numbers, which may soon allow for additional business activities to resume, and indoor capacities to expand.
The State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy 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 22, Orange County has 3.6 average daily cases and a 3.1 percent positivity rate. This means that Orange County could move into the less restrictive orange tier (“moderate” transmission), as soon as September 29.
Under orange tier status, restaurants and movie theaters could expand to 50 percent of maximum indoor dining capacity, and gyms/fitness centers could expand to 25 percent of total indoor capacity. Bars could re-open outdoors, with modifications.
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 re-open or expand with each tier.
COVID-19 Cases in Newport Beach
As of September 24, the number of COVID-19 cases in Newport Beach was 1,111 and the total cases in Orange County was 52,622. The number of recovered COVID-19 patients countywide as of September 24 was 47,513. These figures are provided to Orange County by the California Department of Public Health.
COVID-19 News and Resources
August 28, 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]
Newport, Together Website Update
Recently, City staff has been working to update the Newport, Together website to ensure it is relevant with the current General Plan Update efforts.
If you have not visited in a while, you will notice it still contains information regarding the community’s general plan as a whole, but focuses primarily on the Housing, Land Use, and Circulation Elements, as well as environmental justice. As the City moves toward the Virtual Housing Element Workshop on October 20, 2020, this website will be a great resource for the community to stay current, informed and engaged on the efforts.
For information, check it out at www.newporttogether.com. Also, be sure to sign up/register to be notified of upcoming events. In the coming months, additional content will be added, including on- demand video presentations, engaging virtual activities, and more. Be sure to check back frequently and we look forward to the community’s participation in this effort!
Lifeguard End of Summer Report
Beach crowds and lifeguard activity increased in 2020 compared to 2019. This is due to several factors including warmer than average weather and increased visitation due to COVID restrictions. Summer beach population was estimated at 5.3 million, a 9 percent increase over 2019. Total call volume for the lifeguards was 170,065; a 39 percent increase over last year.
The surf was small to moderate through most of the summer. Preventative actions by lifeguards were up 12 percent at 69,237. Rescues were down slightly compared to 2019 with 2,201 people pulled from the ocean. Lifeguards made over 15,000 code enforcements (a 34 percent increase over 2019) and public contact and assists increased 13 percent to over 30,000. Lifeguard rescue boats were busy with 383 vessel calls, a 57 percent increase year in 2019.
One positive was a 74 percent decrease in stingray injuries compared to last summer. You should still do the stingray shuffle because lifeguards have treated over 500 people so far this year.
Lifeguards estimate that the beach population from January 1 to September 15 was seven million, up 128,000 or 2 percent over 2019. This is significant since the beaches were closed on July 4th weekend and for an extended period in the spring. Lifeguards expect the crowds to continue to be above average through fall.
Junior Lifeguard End of Season Report
Led by Lifeguard Training Captain, Mike Ure, the 2020 Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard Program wrapped up its most interesting season yet. To accommodate COVID-19 safety protocols, the NBJG Program spread out across nearly all eight miles of Newport’s beaches!
The oldest age group (ages 14 and 15) engaged in the full seven-week program at the Newport Pier from June 23 through August 6. The 123 participants ran over 80 miles on land and swam over 20 miles in the ocean.
The younger age groups (ages 9 to 13) participated in a shorter five-week program from July 14 through August 13. These 1,053 participants were split between the NBJG Headquarters location near the Balboa Pier and at Marina Park, thanks to our gracious hosts from the Recreation & Senior Services Department. These participants developed their water skills and ocean confidence, which equipped them to have a safe and fun time at the beach.
Following the program, numerous NBJG families expressed appreciation to the Lifeguards and City leadership for holding the program under the challenging circumstances.
River Sand Relocation Project to Begin Monday
A project to remove accumulated sand from the Santa Ana River outlet and redistribute it along the Newport Beach coastline will begin on Monday, September 28.
Sand removal at the river outlet is done each year in the fall to enhance flood control prior to the storm season. As an added benefit, the high-quality sand is placed along the beach to provide erosion protection and enhance the surf.
OC Public Works and the City of Newport Beach are advising the public to be aware of the presence of heavy equipment at the river outlet and large trucks on the beaches, and to maintain a safe distance.
Crews will be working Monday through Friday from September 28 through November. An estimated 30,000 cubic yards of sand will be removed from the river outlet and deposited in two general locations: between 40th Street and 48th Street and on both sides of the Balboa Pier.
OC Public Works is the lead agency on the project, in coordination with the City of Newport Beach.
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.
- Twelve military veterans and their families have been housed so far this month 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.
- City Net staff completed a screening for a new client for the State of California Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP). The HDAP gives highest priority to chronically disabled homeless people to secure permanent housing and medical benefits.
- 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. One of the two people was referred to Project Roomkey for shelter.
- Two people were placed in motels through Project Roomkey after experiencing homelessness in Newport Beach.
- The Homeless Liaison Officer, Homeless Coordinator, and City Net staff are working with an elderly woman recently placed in a motel. The woman received a new photo ID, Electronic Transfer Benefit (EBT) card, a health screening and postal service through Share Our Selves last week. The EBT system is used in California for the delivery, redemption, and reconciliation of issued public assistance benefits, such as CalFresh, CalWORKs, and other food and cash aid benefits. Established in 2004, EBT provides up to $125 a person a month to purchase food. Share Our Selves, established in 1979 in Costa Mesa, emphasizes care of the whole person through the comprehensive services offered at their health center, including medical and dental care, social services, behavioral health and seasonal outreach programs. Everyone is welcome at SOS, even if they are uninsured or cannot afford to pay.
- 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.