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COVID-19 arrived in Orange County in late January. Once community spread began in early March, State health authorities moved quickly to issue a Stay-at-Home order which closed non-essential businesses and facilities. The goal of the Stay-at-Home order is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by keeping people separated and therefore reducing transmission to save our healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed and unable to care for all patients - including COVID-19 patients - while simultaneously scaling up testing and other important capacities to handle what will inevitably be a long battle with COVID-19.
In the past two months, Orange County has seen more than 3,000 confirmed cases and 66 deaths, attributable to COVID-19 while the City of Tustin has been able to contain the spread to 50 cases. And the tragic numbers in nearby Los Angeles County are much worse, with over 29,000 cases and over 1,400 deaths as of May 7th. These numbers remain concerning and we know one small change in our actions could offset all of the work we have done to date. In summary, our efforts to date have slowed the spread but the rate of transmission has only just begun to stabilize.
Key Takeaway: Like most other areas experiencing COVID, the infections in Orange County started slowly and grew in intensity over a period of a few weeks. While progress has been made towards flattening the curve, some setbacks have occurred along the way, though some of the newly reported cases have been due to testing backlog. We have been very fortunate that our preventive measures have avoided a dramatic spike in cases so our hospitals have not been overwhelmed like hospitals in other parts of the world. We need to ensure that continues to be the case.
Living with COVID-19: Steps to Safely Reopening Tustin
COVID-19 will continue to be a serious threat to our community until there is a vaccine or effective therapeutic treatment available to treat the disease. Experts agree that a vaccine is at least one year away. Therefore, we must learn to live with COVID-19 and living with COVID-19 means finding ways for our City to return to work with COVID-19 present in our community. We must accept and co-exist with a deadly and highly contagious disease and each of us must act responsibly and take the appropriate precautions to prevent transmission in our daily lives.
As we move forward, it’s critical that we continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and as we look to slowly and intentionally reopen the economy, inevitably the opportunity for transmission will accelerate. In the absence of strict social distancing we must take abundant precautions to manage the rate of COVID-19 transmission to avoid a surge in the number of cases and deaths in Tustin. In the absence of precautions, the transmission of this highly contagious disease would increase dramatically over the coming weeks and months, and we must avoid this at all costs.
The City of Tustin will take a phased approach to reopening in order to ensure the continued safety and health of all residents. We will be guided by recommendations from State and County public health officials, along with national public health experts. This phased approach will enable us to slowly reopen while carefully monitoring risks and needs.
As the City of Tustin begins its cautious journey, the City is guided by:
● The objective of ensuring a phased and safe reopening
● Identifying the key indicators to guide decisions and the process of reopening
● A Tustin community that is well-informed about the evolving public health decisions, particularly about stepping forward, and when necessary, stepping backward, in our reopening process.
● Understanding the restrictions and precautions that are expected to be in place in the ‘new normal’
The reopening process will require patience and persistence among individuals, business owners, government and public health officials. It will require new partnerships and innovative collaboration.
The City of Tustin is required to follow State and County public health orders regarding business activities. The City has not imposed any additional restrictions on businesses nor does the city have the ability to reduce restrictions mandated by the State and County.
May 8 Business Reopenings Authorized by the State
According to the most recent State orders, only the businesses and industries listed below may reopen today, on May 8, adhering to the appropriate guidance listed at the following website: https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap/. The linked press release from the Governor’s office provides more information as well.
Businesses authorized by the State to reopen today:
-Curbside retail, including but not limited to:
-Supply chains supporting the above businesses, in manufacturing and logistical sectors
And all “essential’ sectors previously authorized by the State may remain open.
No other businesses are allowed by the State to open. All Tustin businesses are required to follow the State’s orders. While there are discussions of “Regional Variations,” the County of Orange has not certified that it is prepared to go further into “Stage 2.”
The State has also issued updated guidance for Stage 1/essential businesses, which can be found at the following website: https://covid19.ca.gov/essential-workforce/.
Expanded Use of the City’s Parks
Finally, the City of Tustin understands that it is important for everyone to be able to get outside for exercise and fresh air, especially in these challenging times. On Tuesday, May 5, the Tustin City Council unanimously voted to relax restrictions of outdoor recreation activities in Tustin parks, which fall in line with recently updated State of California guidelines issued earlier this week.
The community may continue to visit the City’s public parks as long as individuals maintain a safe physical distance of six feet from others and gather only with members of your household. Please keep in mind that the State has not authorized team sports to resume yet, nor the use of playground equipment, public pools or picnic areas, since those activities are considered higher risk.
We must act as one, striving to keep Tustin safe and healthy and we must protect our friends, family and neighbors - those that we know and those that we don’t - because it is in our individual and collective best interest in the weeks, months and possibly years to come.
Together we are Tustin Strong.
Dr. Allan Bernstein, Mayor