ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - Editor's Note: This story has been revised to clarify that the guidelines have only been approved, but are not yet being implemented at businesses in Orange County.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted 5-0 Tuesday afternoon to adopt guidelines to help businesses reopen when local health officials deem it safe to resume operations. The decision comes as California Governor Gavin Newsom laid out his four-phase plan to reopen the state.
The guidelines set by Chairwoman Michelle Steel and Supervisor Don Wagner were approved by the board will act as a model for Orange County to transition back to a normal state of activity, officials said.
While the county approved these measures, they still have to wait for the Governor's stamp of approval.
“I think it’s a very good first step,” said Tustin lounge owner Keyvan Ghafoori. He is thrilled the Orange County Board of Supervisors is moving to reopen businesses like his.
“Our staff is already ready. We’ve got the gloves, we’ve got the masks, got the sanitizers,” Ghafoori said.
According to the board, "All the recommendations follow the Orange County Health Care Agency and do not supersede any conflicting or more restrictive orders issued by local governments, the State of California, or the Federal Government."
"Orange County has effectively 'flattened the curve.'"
“As we transition back to business as usual, we must do so in a manner that is conscious of the public health but also addressing the needs of businesses and their employees who need to put food on the table. When we talk about the business impact of COVID-19, we’re not just talking about money, we’re talking about people and their ability to provide for themselves and their families,” Chairwoman Steel said.
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Orange County 3rd District Supervisor Don Wagner explains: “We are telling everyone, abide by the governor’s orders look to the OC guidelines to know what the county will let you do.”
Supervisor Wagner added, “These guidelines were put together over many long meetings to ensure that all industry representatives, medical professionals, and our legal counsel had input in order to best reflect business needs while simultaneously keeping in line with public health recommendations.
"The latest data shows the County has had a significant increase in layoffs and unemployment claims. With the curve trending down and OC healthier than surrounding counties, we don’t want to trade one problem for a bigger problem," he said.
According to Wagner, “These guidelines are to give businesses the confidence to function within the state recommendations but with necessary safety precautions. We want to let the public know if they visit a business, there are ways to protect themselves and those around them.”
Orange County Business Guidelines:
The Board of Supervisors urges all members of the public and businesses in Orange County to comply with the following guidelines:
1. Scope. These guidelines do not supersede any conflicting or more restrictive orders issued by local governments, the State of California, or the Federal Government. These guidelines apply equally to businesses, houses of worship, entertainment and sports venues (including youth sports), and education providers, both public and private, and other organizations.
2. Sick, elderly, and vulnerable persons. Anyone who feels sick should remain at home. In addition, high-risk persons who are over 65 years of age, or suffering chronic illnesses, should continue to follow recommendations to stay at home and limit public interaction but should wear a face-covering out for medical and dental appointments, as needed.
3. Physical Distancing in the Workplace. Physical distancing of a minimum of six feet should be maintained between customer-facing employees and the general public, and – to the extent practical – between employee workstations. Where six feet of physical distancing between workstations is impractical, face coverings should be worn. Businesses are encouraged to allow telecommuting by employees when practical.
4. Handwashing, Personal Protective Equipment, and Testing. Employers doing business in Orange County should require all customer-facing employees every thirty minutes to either wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, or wear disposable gloves. Face coverings should be provided to all employees.
All employees, before starting a shift, should have their temperatures taken and not be permitted to work upon a temperature reading above 100.4 degrees.
Businesses should make every effort to limit touchpoints. Businesses should significantly increase the frequency of sanitizing workstations and equipment that come into contact with the general public. Face coverings and gloves should be worn by all customer-facing employees. Visitors to business establishments should also wear appropriate face coverings.
Physical barriers are preferred, if available, but are not required as the general public will make individualized decisions about which businesses to patronize. For the benefit of the public and employees, handwashing or hand sanitizing should be done as soon as possible following the handling of materials that come in contact with the general public.
5. County Facilities. Persons accessing County facilities, including County parks, beaches, and trails, should follow state guidance regarding physical distancing and the use of face coverings.
6. Vendor Compliance. Businesses should attempt to assure compliance with these guidelines by all vendors; failure of a vendor to adhere to these guidelines may subject the vendor to law enforcement action.
7. Further Action as Necessary. The Orange County Board of Supervisors reserves the right to modify these guidelines as circumstances warrant.
The Board of Supervisors recognizes that additional restrictions not reflected in these guidelines may be needed to address the health and safety of certain populations depending upon their age or underlying health concerns, or otherwise to address medical issues as they arise.
“As long as the medical community is saying it’s safe to open I’m not sure that there is an authority in the law do you have a phase one emergency or a phase two emergency or a phase three emergency,” Wagner said.
Meanwhile, Ghafoori, who was only in business for three weeks when COVID-19 struck has been doing take out orders to survive. He says he’s looking forward to seating customers in early May but, at reduced capacity: “So we’re licensed to have fifty people so we will allow 25 people and then we’re gonna sit them apart.”
Ghafoori is hoping to reopen the Divan Mediterranean Grill and Hookah Lounge on May 5th and is expecting other businesses in Orange County to follow suit or even open sooner.