• Orange County is taking on California and Washington D.C. to prevent Americans testing positive for COVID-19 from being quarantined in Costa Mesa
  • The county has declared a local health emergency
  • Costa Mesa was granted a temporary restraining order preventing the infected Americans from being transferred to this facility

Orange County, the second most densely populated county in California, has declared a health emergency despite there now being no confirmed coronavirus cases inside its environs.

The county's board of supervisors declared the local emergency as part of its ongoing fight to prevent federal and state agencies from using state-owned Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa (a city in Orange County) as a coronavirus quarantine site. Federal authorities plan to transfer to Costa Mesa the 45 repatriated COVID-19 positive cases currently quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and Travis Air Force Base in Solano County. The board on Tuesday voted to join Costa Mesa in a federal lawsuit that will block COVID-19 patients from being housed at Fairview.

Costa Mesa successfully requested a temporary restraining order from a federal judge on February 21, blocking attempts to transfer to Fairview repatriates that tested positive for COVID-19. Observers say the proclamation was issued in the event Orange County loses the lawsuit against the state and federal government.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton ordered federal, state and local officials to meet by the end of this week to agree about the potential use of Fairview. She set another court hearing for March 2 to discuss the conclusions.

“The county of Orange continues to support Costa Mesa in opposition of state and federal government’s decision to move COVID-19 patients to the Fairview center,” said County Supervisor Andrew Do.

In its court response to Costa Mesa’s injunction, federal agencies said the “fear of COVID-19 does not justify such unprecedented intrusion into federal quarantine decisions by the specialized agencies responsible for this area.”

Orange County declared a local health emergency Wednesday to ostensibly ensure it will have all means to protect the public from the growing threat of COVID-19. There are currently 60 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

As of Tuesday, California had eight confirmed COVID-19 cases out of the 15 confirmed in the entire country. In addition, there are 45 cases among Americans repatriated over the past weeks from China and the infected cruise ship, Diamond Princess, in dock at Yokohama, Japan. Some of these 45 repatriated cases are located at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County. In total, 455 Americans have been tested for COVID-19.

A US plane will carry Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan to Travis Air Force Base in California
A US plane will carry Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan to Travis Air Force Base in California AFP / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

“Although there are currently no cases of coronavirus in Orange County, my goal is to ensure all residents and visitors to Orange County as well as all of our resources can be prepared in the event of an outbreak,” said Michelle Steel, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. “This will allow the county to ensure all means are available to us to protect the public.”

The declaration also asks Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency and “make all relevant funds available to the county of Orange and all eligible community members and businesses.”

The county’s proclamation orders “all county departments and agencies take those actions, measures and steps deemed necessary to assure the safety and welfare of Orange County residents and property, including requesting mutual aid to the extent such aid is necessary, and utilizing ... any other available funding stream to acquire resources determined ... necessary to respond to this declared emergency.”

With 34 cities, Orange County is part of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim Metropolitan Statistical Area.