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Orange County Officials Refuse to Disclose Restaurants With Coronavirus Outbreaks

Despite a petition, OC officials are keeping COVID-19 outbreaks under wraps

Bars across Orange County, many of which have only recently reopened, will be forced to shut down again beginning at midnight Thursday, Gov. Newsom announced.
A classic convertible passes by patrons dining at restaurants and bars on Main Street Wednesday, July 1, 2020 in Huntington Beach, CA
Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A petition is circling within Orange County to mandate that restaurants publicly report COVID-19 outbreaks among staff. Currently the county’s health department does not voluntarily disclose information surrounding coronavirus outbreaks, unlike surrounding counties such at Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino. And, despite public requests for that information, the LA Times reports that health officials in Orange County “have no immediate plans” to provide the data.

The petition requesting information on coronavirus outbreaks at Orange County businesses is currently hovering near its goal of 1,500 signatures. The petition reads:

As a consumer, I should decide if I want to patronize an establishment that had a COVID exposure or not. The same way as Health Grades are published. COVID exposure should be published.

The County of Orange has withheld data from the public. Provided inaccurate charts. Provided inaccurate hospital data. OC asked cities such as Anaheim to withhold data on COVID 19 infections per zip code.

We need transparency and accountability from the County of Orange.

Per the Times, restaurants and other businesses must follow mandated health and safety protocols and must inform the Orange County public health office if a positive employee test occurs, but that information is not then made public in any kind of database or other forum. In lieu of that, some restaurants have publicly acknowledged outbreaks among staff, voluntarily shutting down to deep clean and reopen in the process.

Coronavirus cases are spiking in Orange County, with a positivity rate nearing 15 percent, compared to just over 11 percent in Los Angeles County. Restaurants and bars there were among the first to reopen anywhere in the state, and several restaurant operators have publicly clashed with health inspectors and politicians over some of the mandated protocols, including the wearing of face masks. Despite the statewide mandate on mask-wearing in public, officials in Orange County have still been subject to a variety of tirades from constituents who believe the ordinance infringes on their freedom; at least one health officer has publicly resigned after facing criticism over the wearing of masks.