OC Chief Health Officer Resigns, New Officer Sworn In

SANTA ANA (CNS) - The Orange County Board of Supervisors today appointed Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the county's Health Care Agency, as the chief health officer following the abrupt resignation of Dr. Nichole Quick, who had faced intense pressure over her order requiring face coverings to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As part of her settlement agreement, Quick was paid $75,000. Quick, who was appointed county health officer last June, was entitled to three months' severance pay.

Quick, who had also been assuming some responsibilities of the director of public health services, resigned Monday night after drawing criticism from some residents and two members of the Board of Supervisors who had repeatedly grilled her publicly regarding her order last month to require face coverings as the county allowed some businesses to reopen.

Quick, who did not state a reason for stepping down in her resignation letter, was receiving heightened security due to threats stemming from her mask order. Protesters brought a poster with Quick's photo embellished with a Hitler mustache and swastikas to a Board of Supervisors meeting last month.

Quick's resignation was the second major and abrupt departure in Orange County since the pandemic began. David Souleles retired in April as the HCA's deputy director of public health services.

Supervisor Doug Chaffee said Monday that Quick resigned because “it was too much for her.''

“She has three young children and she's been severely criticized by people who came out demanding her resignation, demonstrations in front of her home,'' he said. “She's done her best to give her medical opinion and it's not popular, so she has resigned.''

Chaffee noted that for all the residents who show up at board meetings to complain about the mask order, officials have received a great deal of expressions of support for it.

“The email is 10-to-one to keep it,'' he said. “They're afraid to show up (at board meetings) because of the confrontation it will entail.''

Chaffee was not sure what would happen with Quick's mask order. Chau has defended it, explaining it is required when residents cannot maintain six feet of social distancing.

Nearly 100 residents lined up to speak out against the mask and stay-at-home orders at this morning's supervisors meeting, where several board members peppered Chau with questions about the necessity of the face-covering order and how much longer it would need to be in place.

Chau said he was concerned about outbreaks stemming from the widespread protests against police brutality throughout the county. He said the mask order should definitely remain in place for another three weeks to see if there is an uptick that exceeds state standards as the county reopens businesses on Friday.

Chau said the reopening of so many new businesses by this weekend will bring the county into a “new ecosystem,'' and he added, “We have to evaluate how we do in that new eco-system before we  make that decision.''

Chau said the rate of new cases and the ability to handle a surge of patients in the county's hospitals are the two key metrics he is tracking. Chau wants to remain below the state standard of 8% of positive cases per 100,000 population. The county's current rate is 4.6%.

Supervisor Andrew Do, who was the first supervisor to advocate for masks in April, criticized county officials for not having a more specific standard for when masks are no longer required.

“At some point shouldn't we have a standard, a number we can rely on, that the community can rely on?'' Do said. “If our number is low and lower than the state average and way below other counties adjacent to us... if this is not sufficient then what is sufficient? What is the standard you're using then?''

Supervisor Don Wagner and board Chairwoman Michelle Steel questioned the effectiveness of masks and pointed to recommendations in the past from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chau, however, said the most recent guidance from the public health organizations recommends masks.

Chau reiterated that the masks are not meant to protect the wearer, but to help keep them from spreading the highly contagious virus to others, particularly those most vulnerable such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, the Health Care Agency on Tuesday reported 93 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's cumulative total to 7,614, with the death tollrising by eight to 185. Health officials say 86 of the deaths in the county involved residents of skilled nursing home facilities.

One of the deaths reported Tuesday involved a skilled nursing facility residents and two were residents of assisted living facilities.

The number of hospitalized patients rose from 291 on Monday to 304, with the number in intensive care rising from 135 to 146, according to the HCA. The number of people tested for the virus in the county stands at 164,981, with 3,372 documented recoveries.

Photos: Getty Images

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