By Grace Leung, Newport Beach City Manager
As the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant continues, the City has temporarily modified some of our operations to ensure we continue to maintain all services to the community.
Beginning on January 3, we temporarily closed City Hall to the public, shifting some in-person services to online and phone only. Our permit counters continue to serve customers through drop-off bins placed outside City Hall, which were utilized as part of previous COVID protocols.
City libraries are open, but no in-person meetings or programs will take place at libraries until further notice. Bill paying and other revenue operations will be conducted online and by phone. Recreation classes will continue as scheduled; community centers will be limited to programs participants only.
The January 11th City Council meeting will be in person and open to the public, with the Community Room open for additional seating.
Our highest priority is to maintain staffing so that services and service levels to the community continue during this time.
We anticipate these protocols will be in place at least through mid-January. However, we are carefully monitoring the COVID Omicron outbreak in consultation with Hoag Hospital and County health officials, and will adjust as necessary.
The Orange County Public Health Care Agency underscored the severity of the COVID-19 surge this week, noting that the cases are reaching levels that haven’t been seen previously during the pandemic.
The County reports that between December 30 and January 5, the seven-day average COVID-19 case rate in Orange County jumped from 25.5 to 67.5 per 100,000 people and the average number of daily COVID-19 cases rose from 822 to 2,179. The positivity rate also increased from 6.5 to 16.2 percent, hospitalizations from 453 to 673, and ICU admissions from 89 to 114 per day.
The majority of people who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 continue to be among those who are unvaccinated, at 87 percent. In addition to getting vaccinated, Orange County residents and visitors are encouraged to take the following preventative measures against COVID-19:
- Get tested 24 hours before and 3-5 days after gathering or traveling. Self-collection, at-home COVID-19 Test Kits are available at no cost to people who work or live in Orange County, and can be ordered online at ochealthinfo.com/covidtest. An email address is required for each individual requesting a test kit. Each kit comes with a prepaid shipping return label and results are provided within 24-48 hours upon receipt of the specimen.
- People without symptoms, or who have mild symptoms and are at low risk of severe disease, should not go to the hospital or emergency room to obtain screening testing. Hospitals are focused on people who are sick and need urgent care. Rapid tests are currently in short supply nationwide; people who are in need of quicker test results are encouraged to check with their healthcare provider or local retail pharmacy for availability of rapid tests.
California mask mandate extended to February 15:
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), universal masking indoors is now required through February 15, 2022 to slow the spread of COVID-19.
For full guidance on effective masks as well as guidance for improved fit and protection, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Get-the-Most-out-of-Masking.aspx.
For additional frequently asked questions about the State’s universal masking mandate, visit https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Face-Coverings-QA.aspx.
Follow COVID-19 safety precautions:
- Limit or avoid large gatherings, especially indoors
- Keep a safe distance from others who may be unvaccinated
- Wash and sanitize your hands often and thoroughly
- Ensure good ventilation by keeping doors and windows open
- Regularly self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; and
- Stay home if you are sick
Recommendations for Pfizer Booster and Additional Primary Doses
On January 4 and January 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the following recommendations for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be administered:
- As a booster dose in individuals ages 12-17
- As a booster dose 5 months after primary vaccination, for individuals age 12 and older
- As a third additional primary dose for moderately or severely immunocompromised children ages 5-11, 28 days after their second dose
The recommendations apply only to the Pfizer vaccine, not to the Moderna or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines.
Vaccines continue to be widely available throughout Orange County for walk-in, same day and future appointments. Individuals who are not yet vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19, or are eligible for a third dose (due to immunocompromise conditions) are encouraged to visit a local pharmacy or healthcare provider, or go online to www.Vaccines.gov, www.MyTurn.ca.gov or www.Othena.com to schedule a vaccination appointment.
For more information on COVID-19 information and resources, including case counts, vaccination and testing in Orange County, visit www.ochealthinfo.com/covid.
COVID-19 Cases in Newport Beach
As of January 6, the total cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in Newport Beach was 5,415, an increase of 1,348 cases since December 16. The total number of cases in Orange County as of January 6 was 368,432, an increase of 50,050 cases since December 16. The number of recovered COVID-19 patients countywide as of January 6 was 311,519. These figures are provided to Orange County by the California Department of Public Health. The County’s daily, weekday update of COVID-19 case information is available at https://ochca.maps.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/cc4859c8c522496b9f21c451de2fedae. Free Christmas Tree Pickup Continues Through January 15
If you would like free pickup and recycling of your Christmas tree, please remove all lights, ornaments, and bases, and place the tree near your trash carts on the same day as your regular collection service between now and January 15. Trees must be six feet or less, so you may need to cut trees larger than six feet.
Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park, Phase VII – Public Poll
The Newport Beach City Arts Commission invites members of the community to vote on the final selection of sculptures in Phase VII of the rotating exhibition in Civic Center Park. Facilitated by Arts Orange County, the public survey is open to Newport Beach residents only and will remain open until January 10.
The sculptures selected for public vote were chosen by the City Arts Commission, and curatorial panel members May Sun, a freelance artist and professor at the California Institute of the Arts, and Brian Peterson, a muralist, former industrial-designer at Kia Design Center America, and founder of the nonprofit organization, The Faces of Santa Ana.
Panelists discussed criteria for artwork under consideration and reviewed sculpture applications. The panel evaluated the works in four critical areas (artistic merit, durability, practicality, and site appropriateness) and then selected artworks of various sizes, mediums, and subject matter for the public online survey.
The public’s vote will select the final ten sculptures that will be installed for Phase VII of the sculpture exhibition. These sculptures will be reviewed by the City Council at the February 8 Regular Meeting for final approval. Selected sculptures will be on loan to the City of Newport Beach for two years. Sculptors, whose artworks are chosen for installation in Civic Center Park, will receive a small honorarium.
The City is responsible for installing the art, while artists are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their work. The outdoor exhibition attracts an audience of all ages, including schoolchildren, the local community, and visitors from Southern California and beyond.
Take the public online survey to vote for your favorite sculpture at https://www.sparkoc.com/nb_sculpture_poll.
Balboa Boulevard Median Improvements Underway
Construction for the Balboa Boulevard Median Improvements project is now underway. The City’s contractor, Green Giant Landscape, will be reconstructing the medians on Balboa Boulevard from 12th Street to Medina Way between now and May 2022. Construction is scheduled to be completed prior to the busy summer season. The improvements include widening the existing raised medians, installing new median hardscape, a new median irrigation system and new median landscaping, slurry sealing the roadway, installing new traffic signing and striping, and adjusting utilities to grade. Temporary parking restrictions and lane closures will be in place to facilitate construction activities.
These median improvements are a continuation of the improvements previously completed in 2017 on Balboa Boulevard between 21st Street and 12th Street.
In addition, a separate utility construction contract will also be in progress in the same vicinity. Asplundh Construction will be installing fiber optics lines on Balboa Boulevard.
- 20 people who had been experiencing homelessness in Newport Beach are now sheltered in the Costa Mesa Bridge Shelter.
- City Net, the City’s contract homeless services agency, helped several clients obtain Emergency Housing Vouchers. Emergency Housing Vouchers, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, allow people to pay affordable rent based on their fixed incomes. Nine people experiencing homelessness in Newport Beach have been awarded vouchers. The voucher program is administered by the Orange County Housing Authority. City Net is assisting Newport Beach clients with completing the necessary paperwork, obtaining bank statements, touring potential rental apartments, and more.
- City Net completed housing paperwork for two people who obtained housing opportunities through the County’s Coordinated Entry System of care. The Coordinated Entry System matches people with permanent housing opportunities based on their needs and income.
- City Net completed an application with a client to obtain a permanent resident card as an identifying document for housing navigation.
- City Net connected a newly housed person with housing stabilization services to ensure a successful transition.
- Staff continues to provide food gift cards, support, and case management to people sheltering in motels while they await placement into permanent, supportive housing with Emergency Housing Vouchers.
To donate to those experiencing homelessness in Newport Beach, please visit our Good Giving Program web page at https://newportbeachca.gov/trending/community-issues/homelessness/how-you-can-help.