Newport Reacts to the Coronavirus

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By Lou Ponsi | NB Indy

Newport Beach is closing city services following a county order to try and limit the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
— SamaraHeisz5 /
shutterstock ©

The ripple effect of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) is being felt in Newport Beach after the city declared a local emergency, the county prohibited gatherings, and the state announced a shelter-in-place directive.

Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian is not permitting patient visits except in certain situations, the hospital announced Monday.

One of the region’s most popular and iconic annual events, the Newport Beach Film Festival, originally scheduled for April 23-30 has been rescheduled for Aug. 6-13.

Library branches and community center facilities closed on Monday, and will remain shuttered through March 31.

As individuals and businesses follow the guidelines set forth by the county, state and federal governments in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and welcome the new normal in Newport Beach.

“Newport Beach residents have been concerned about their parents, grandparents, and senior neighbors,” Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill said in an email this week. “They have been concerned about their jobs if they work at bars or restaurants. They have been worried about whether they or a loved one will catch the virus. And with schools closed, there has been concern about childcare and maintaining sanity with little ones cooped in a house all day for an indeterminate period of time. But there is also a sense of community, that we are all in this together.”

City Council met for a special meeting on Wednesday to ratify the decision to declare a local emergency. Only O’Neill and Councilmember Diane Dixon were physically on hand at the meeting, sitting several seats apart, while the rest of the Council members called in for a teleconference. Public seating was also taped off, enforcing social distancing for the few residents in the audience.

Council voted 7-0 in support of the proclamation of a local emergency.

“This is uncharted territory,” O’Neill said at the meeting.

He emphasized providing aid for senior citizens, supporting local restaurants by ordering take-out, noted online resources available for parents, and thanked the first responders and medical professionals on the frontline.

“Know that we’re with you,” O’Neill said to each group.

The city is not a public health expert, he added, so they are following the guidance put out there by Orange County Health Care Agency and other agencies.

At Hoag, patients who are undergoing a procedure or treatment are limited to one support person and patients in labor by have one support person per stay, from admission to discharge.

Minors and patients with special needs may accompanied by one parent or guardian and patients in the neonatal intensive care unit may have only one parent visit at a time. Both parents will be permitted to visit, just not at the same time.

End of life patients may have visitors, which will be coordinated directly with the care team.

Pet visits will not be permitted unless it is a service animal or visiting an end of life patient.

“Hoag is prepared to protect our patients, physicians, clinical care providers and all employees from the spread of infectious disease,” said Dr. Philip Robinson, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Hoag, in an email statement. “Like many other hospitals, we care for patients with infectious diseases frequently and are well prepared to provide them with the best and appropriate care while ensuring the safety of our staff, patients and visitors.”

Hoag continues to provide updates at hoag.org/covid

In some ways, the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are worse than the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, said Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce president Steve Rosansky.

“It’s like 9-11 … but when the planes were down, the threat was over,” Rosansky said. “With this, the threat is getting worse.”

Local businesses, especially those dependent on tourists, are being impacted the most, he said

“My understanding is that the hotels are at 10 to 20 percent of occupancy,” Rosansky said. “You go around town and the only things that are busy are the supermarkets. I was out this morning at 7:30 … and you can see that people are just not out. I think I made every green light.”

“I think that the effects will be felt three, six, nine and 12 months out. We’re going to feel the effects for quite a while,” he added.

At Wednesday’s meeting, City Manager Grace Leung agreed that this is an unprecedented situation.

“We’re really in the mode of preparing, not panicking,” Leung emphasized. “We do have the structure and organization in place to respond and continue to move forward in a very responsible manner, (so) that we can support our community as well as our own employees.”

It’s very fluid, as things are changing at a very rapid pace, she added.

Newport Beach has activated and staffed the city’s Emergency Operations Center. They’ve also taken steps to follow the county and state guidelines that have been released this week, Leung noted.

Newport Beach City Hall.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

“The overall emphasis, right now, has been on slowing the transmission of this virus as much as possible, and that’s what we’re working toward here, as a city” Leung said.

All Newport Beach city facilities, including City Hall, will be closed to the public as of Wednesday, following Tuesday’s executive order from the Orange County Health Care Agency to slow the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus), officials announced.

OASIS may be closed, but they are still doing meal service and transportation, O’Neill noted. If a senior resident needs any help at all, they can call the senior services department at (949) 644-3244.

The county’s emergency order prohibits gatherings of any size in the county, eliminates dining in at restaurants, and strongly encourages those 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions to stay home until March 31.

Leung mentioned some of the steps the city has taken in response, including closing all the library branches and community centers, as well as suspending all street sweeping parking enforcement until further notice (because of how fast this has been moving some tickets were issued, but they have been “backed out” of the system and won’t apply any fines or fees, she confirmed).

“We’re doing the best we can,” she said.

The city is spending just on the essentials as they figure out what this means for Newport Beach, she said.

“We have a great community here; we have heard of folks wanting to reach out and help,” Leung continued, so they’ll be looking at ways of supporting each other in the coming weeks. “But first and foremost is helping to work as a whole city, as a whole state, as a whole nation on slowing down the transmission. So that’s our first focus right now.”

City Hall and the Police Department will remain open to the public for essential services, with social distancing measures in place.

However, city officials are encouraging the public to handle transactions by phone or email whenever possible.

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.

Services for Newport Beach’s senior community, including meal delivery and transportation services, will be maintained.

While the OASIS Senior Center is temporarily closed, staff is available to assist senior residents.

“Let’s not forget that this is the Year of the Volunteer,” O’Neill said in an email. “That this is a year where we celebrate people giving of their time and talent toward the betterment of their community and world around. In the midst of this chaos, I have already seen the generosity of churches, charities, and neighbors alike. And we will need more — a lot more — volunteerism in the coming days and weeks ahead. Be safe, be smart, be educated, and be stewards of our general well-being. We will get through this together.”

 

*Sara Hall contributed to this story*

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