It’s been more than a year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Orange County.  As of March 31st, there have now been 250,683 reported cases and 4,744 Orange County residents have lost their lives to the virus.

Here in Irvine, there have been 10,379 reported cases and 81 of our Irvine neighbors have died from COVID-19.  Each of those numbers represents someone’s mother, father, daughter, son, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.  Thousands of lives have been devastated by the loss of our 81 Irvine neighbors.

Over the past year, Councilmember Anthony Kuo and City staff have made presentations comparing our City to neighboring communities like Santa Ana and Anaheim to make the case that Irvine is doing much better than other cities because of Irvine’s leadership on COVID-19.  Those presentations are not only misleading and inappropriate — they are insulting to the underserved communities in Orange County.

As a medical professional who continues to work with health care partners in our County’s most vulnerable communities, I can assure you that Irvine’s lower COVID-19 case count and death rate has nothing to do with better leadership.  It’s because of the health care inequities that existed in Orange County before the pandemic struck … and the health care inequities that have expanded since the onset of the pandemic.

Naturally, Irvine is doing better than Santa Ana and Anaheim when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.  Irvine is one of the wealthiest cities in the nation.  The majority of our residents have been able to work from home since last March and have had access to our City’s world-class medical facilities.

Irvine’s numbers might have been even lower if the City Council had been prepared to quickly build a strong and sustained public health response.  That means implementing the public health interventions — rapid testing, contact-tracing, isolation/quarantine, and referral for treatment.  Instead, the City has waited for the County to lead … and that hasn’t happened.

Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH