SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Days after Orange County's chief health officer resigned amid criticism over her order requiring the public to wear face masks, the new interim health officer lifted that requirement as other businesses were given the green light to reopen.
Dr. Clayton Chau, the interim health officer and recently appointed Health Care Agency director, announced Thursday that while facial coverings are no longer required to be worn by the public, their use is still strongly recommended to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus as more sectors of the economy begin to resume operations. He added that the decision was not prompted by pushback from the public, but rather in an effort to be consistent with state language on masks.
"I want to be clear. This does not diminish the importance of face coverings. I stand with the public health experts and believe wearing cloth face coverings help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and save lives," Chau said.
The face covering order in the county had been at the center of controversy, with residents speaking out against the mandate at public meetings. Former health officer Dr. Nichole Quick was receiving heightened security due to threats stemming from the mask order. Sheriff Don Barnes last month said he would not ask his deputies to enforce the order.
Chau addressed Quick's resignation during a Thursday press briefing, saying that her departure is a "great loss to this community."
He also announced that a forthcoming revised health order will allow for the reopening of several more types of businesses including movie theaters, bars, zoos, gyms and other fitness centers.
Those businesses can begin opening their doors starting Friday, June 12. Card rooms, race tracks and campgrounds are also included.
The chair of the county Board of Supervisors said she has sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking that the county be granted permission to move into the next phase of reopening, which would apply to nail salons and other sectors.
Orange County on Thursday reported 260 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, bringing the region's totals to 7,987 cases and 202 deaths. Just over 3,720 individuals have recovered from the virus.