OC Supervisors join fight to block turning Costa Mesa center into coronavirus quarantine site

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) -- Plans to turn a Costa Mesa facility into a coronavirus quarantine site continued to receive push back Tuesday from Orange County officials and residents after a judge extended a temporary restraining order blocking the effort for another week.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the City of Costa Mesa in a legal battle against the state and federal government's plan to house 30 to 50 infected patients at the Fairview Developmental Center. The patients, who have been infected or exposed to novel coronavirus, would be transferred from the current quarantine site established at Travis Air Force Base.

"(Fairview) has actually been used by children during the weekend, and they play soccer games. We have Section 8 housing there, and nearby there's a senior citizen homes and then assisted living homes and a lot of schools too," said Michelle Steel, Orange County Board of Supervisors chairwoman.

The decision by the supervisors to file an amicus brief in support of Costa Mesa's application for an emergency temporary restraining order comes one day after U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton approved the extension of the temporary restraining order, or TRO.

The plan was expected to start as early as Feb. 23. But just two days before that, the city was able to obtain the TRO, halting the transfer to the state-owned facility that is no longer operational.

The multi-building campus at 2501 Harbor Blvd., which opened in 1959, once housed about 2,700 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities but is now nearly empty and slated for closure.

Opponents of the transfer argued there are too many unknown factors, such as the exact number of patients and the level of care they need.

"Getting more information as to the nature of the people and the plans around managing these individuals in the county is what we are currently waiting for," said Nichole Quick, Orange County Health Care Agency assistant director.

Local, state and federal leaders have until March 2, when the next hearing is scheduled, to get more definitive answers.

Costa Mesa residents said they were blindsided by the federal government's plan, adding there hasn't been sufficient study of the possible risk to local residents.

Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, said the city is too densely populated to manage the facility without the possibility of spreading the infection that originated in China, known officially as COVID-19.

"Even (Judge Staton) stated (on Monday) that it wasn't clear what was it that the state was trying to do. Are they studying the process or are they actually waiting to move patients into Fairview?" Do said.

California Health and Human Services issued the following statement:

The federal government's quarantine requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to secure an isolation site in California that would pose no risk of transmission to the community, and the state is working closely with the federal government to make sure they take every precaution in order to protect public safety.

Safely and securely isolating our fellow Californians who are under federal care is an important way to keep all of our communities safe from novel coronavirus, and we will continue to communicate with local partners - both those in Costa Mesa and communities that are being greatly impacted by shortages of hospital isolation beds.

The City of Newport Beach said it's closely monitoring the situation and planned to discuss its own legal options with the city attorney during a closed session Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing for the virus to become a pandemic. Health officials say there are 35 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, including at least 18 Americans who returned home from a quarantined cruise ship earlier this week.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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