During the second week in January, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported 55,815 new cases of COVID-19 among our County’s residents. The number of hospitalizations also sharply increased, with 1,154 hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients across the County. That is an increase of 379 since this time a week ago. And, we lost another 15 Orange County residents in the past week.
Here in Irvine, the numbers also continue to trend upward. There have been 5,555 new cases of COVID-19 reported among our Irvine neighbors this past week.
During the first year or so of the pandemic, Irvine fared significantly better than many of the County’s less affluent cities. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the significant health care disparities that exist among many of our County’s underserved communities.
However, with the County’s fifth wave, propelled by the Omicron variant, the City of Irvine appears to have lost its initial “immunity” to the rapid spread of the virus. Irvine now accounts for a full 10 percent of all new cases that are being reported throughout Orange County.
Former Mayor and current City Councilmember Larry Agran has called on Irvine to create its own Public Health Department to help our City’s residents during the current COVID-19 pandemic and to make sure that Irvine is better prepared to handle the next public health emergency.
When asked for comment, Agran stated: “I have been a longtime proponent of Irvine establishing our own Public Health Department. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that position. For the past two years now, Irvine has had to depend on the County for guidance and resources because we have not established any public health capacity at the City level.”
Agran continued: “The City of Irvine is receiving $56 million in federal funding to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. According to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, there are more than 2,800 local Public Health Departments across the nation, most of them in cities much smaller than our own. In a city as large as Irvine — with more than 300,000 residents — it just makes sense for us to establish our own Public Health Department.”
Agran concluded by saying: “I also believe that Irvine should do what so many other cities across the nation have done these past two years — hire more school nurses so that our City reaches the national recommended standard of one school nurse per school. Right now, we have about half the number of school nurses necessary to meet this standard. Why wouldn’t we want to do all we can to protect the children, teachers, and staff at our local Irvine schools?”
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