Weekly Update from Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill

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Mayor Will O’Neill

By Mayor Will O’Neill / Special to the NB Indy

Sept. 17 is Constitution Day

Our ongoing Great Civics Lesson these past four years has hopefully awakened a curiosity about how government works and the ideals behind them. Federalism is indeed a deeply complicated concept that, at its core, recognizes that decisions are best made by those closest to the issue.

Deep down, you know that you can make the best decisions for yourself. That your city councils can make better decisions for their cities than state governments hundreds of miles away. That state governments can resolve differences between cities and address infrastructure concerns better than a federal government thousands of miles away. And a federal government can address military preparedness and international relations far better than fifty individual states can. (Note, I use the word “can” instead of “do” purposefully.)

Utah Senator Mike Lee articulated part of this concept in an interesting book called “Written Out of History” when he said: “the nation as a whole benefits from the innovation fostered in an environment where states are allowed to govern according to their own citizens’ unique ideas, needs, and local preferences.”

We celebrate the document that serves as a foundation for our societal framework and recognize today that we continue through amendments and the political process to strive for “a more perfect union.”

Enjoy Constitution Day!

COVID Update

Hoag Hospital has really stepped up repeatedly this year to protect our community and I express my sincere thanks to their leadership and every single front line doctor, nurse, and employee at their hospital and many offices and urgent cares.

Newport Beach is stronger because they care and are at the forefront of specific knowledge.

We have fortunately seen real progress in our state and especially our county over the past eight weeks.

Hospitalizations in Orange County peaked on July 13 at 11.8 percent of capacity. They are now at 3.3 percent and (knock on wood) we haven’t seen a spike post-Labor Day.

Hospitalizations always drove the state’s lockdown thought process—until recently.

We were told in March that the state was shutting down to “flatten the curve.” The Governor then rolled out a four-phase plan for reopening on 4/28.

On 5/23, Orange County reached “phase 2.” Five weeks later, the Governor scrapped the 4-phase approach, shut the state down again as hospitalizations were rising rapidly, and created a “watchlist” focused on hospitalizations and infection rates.

As hospitalizations plummeted, Orange County rolled off the watchlist on August 23. A little over a week later, the Governor shifted again to a color-coded tier system that controls re-opening of various sectors of society.

Re-openings will now depend on a county’s positivity rate and case rate. Positivity percent is simply (positive tests) / (total tests). Case rate is how many people tested positive compared to the total population of a county (divided into 100k increments).

As of Tuesday of this week, Orange County’s positivity rate is 3.9 percent and our case rate is 4.4/100k/day. Both are seven-day averages with seven-day lags.

A county’s case rate for tier purposes is actually the true case rate multiplied by a “Linear Adjustment Factor” that rewards counties for testing a lot and punishes counties for testing less.

So, what does this mean?

We need to increase testing in OC to open more sectors of our economy. But is prioritizing testing over all else a good idea? Recent analysis seems to indicate that the answer is nuanced. Yes, we should do more testing, but the type of testing really matters.

I also note that the new tiered system has no green tier. No true reopening. Even if the state could get to the fourth tier – which is not a guaranty even with a vaccine – there would be no fans in stands. Concerts are verboten. Houses of worship and restaurants would be limited to 50 percent indoor capacity (but all retail and shopping malls are 100 percent open indoors in the 3rd tier).

We need a more moderate approach that allows us to safely reopen. Extreme swings and unattainable goals are bad for our mental health, for our economy, and ultimately bad for our society.

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