On December 16th, the Orange County Health Care Agency (OC HCA) reported 316 new cases of COVID-19 that day; and a total of 201 COVID-19 patients in Orange County hospitals.
On Monday (January 10th), the agency reported a staggering 22,945 new cases for the day; and 964 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19. (87% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.)
In just over three weeks, there have been 79,423 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Orange County and 62 more residents in the County have died from this horrible virus. During that same time period, there have been 7,710 new cases of COVID-19 reported here in Irvine, and we have lost another neighbor to the virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has now taken the lives of 119 Irvine residents.
And, the OC HCA confirmed the third COVID-related pediatric death in Orange County. Over the holidays, a child under the age of 5 died of complications related to a COVID-19 infection.
According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, the number of children and teens stricken with COVID-19 in the U.S. nearly doubled over the last two weeks, with 326,000 new cases reported during the final week of December.
I urge parents to check with your pediatrician and school nurse regarding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and how you can get your child up-to-date on all vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.
As a health care provider myself, what is most upsetting to me is the fact that so many of the cases we are now witnessing — and the tragic deaths — could have been avoided! The health care community anticipated that those who were eligible would take advantage of the life-saving vaccine series and that all who were eligible for the booster vaccination would get it. That clearly has not happened as cases continue to surge throughout the County and here in Irvine.
Looking back over the past two years of this pandemic, we must acknowledge that our County and our City were unprepared to handle this public health crisis. Our own County Supervisor, former Irvine Mayor Don Wagner, has continued to argue against mask and vaccine mandates.
Once it became clear that the County wasn’t adequately prepared to lead, the City of Irvine should have moved forward with the establishment of our own Public Health Department. Other California cities did that decades ago, including Pasadena and Long Beach. Right now, Santa Ana is moving forward in establishing its own Public Health Department.
There is still time for Irvine to show real leadership! The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and inevitably other public health crises will emerge in the coming years. It just makes sense for our City to partner with UCI and its wealth of resources in the medical, nursing, and public health fields. Working together with UCI, the City of Irvine could become a public health leader, not just in Orange County but across the nation. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?
Here are four concrete steps the City can take to show real leadership:
- The UCI School of Public Health has offered to help Irvine develop our own Public Health Department. Let’s accept their offer to help … now!
- The City can support businesses, workers, and schools by helping to ensure their environments are as safe as possible. That means distributing free COVID-19 antigen tests, providing better protective masks (N-95), and connecting businesses with community resources.
- The City can provide added financial resources to IUSD and TUSD so that the school districts can hire more school nurses to help manage the pandemic and disseminate COVID-19 information to both students and parents.
- The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on our children. Given the mental health emergency among our students, the City can help our Irvine schools hire more mental health counselors.