The New Normal: Orange County Gets The Greenlight to Reopen

Chris Kwon


For months now, students, parents, and their school teachers and administrators have been unsure of what the new school year may look like. In the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic, everyone has struggled to find the balance between safety and what was once their normal every day life.

On Sunday morning, Orange County was officially removed from California’s COVID-19 watch list as a result of many key metrics moving in the right direction.

The state’s coronavirus watchlist features a six-point criteria for a county to land on the list:

1. Doing fewer than 150 tests per 100,000 residents daily (over a 7-day average)
2. More than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days
3. Having more than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents and an 8% test positivity rate
4. 10% or greater increase in COVID-19 hospitalized patients over the past 3 days
5. Fewer than 20% of ICU beds available
​​​​​​​6. Fewer than 25% ventilators available

To top it off, California Governor Gavin Newsom also stated that if a country remains on the watch list for three or more days, the state will require them to rollback any reopening plans.

Luckily for residents in Orange County, on Sunday morning, they were officially removed from California’s COVID-19 watch list as a result of many key metrics moving in the right direction.

Orange County joins San Diego as the two Southern California counties to be removed from the list while Riverside, Imperial, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Bernadino county have each remained on the list for more than two weeks.

Key metrics that resulted in Orange County’s removal from the watch list include the rate of county residents testing positive for COVID-19 which fell to 5.4%, about 2.6% less than the state’s 8% limit.

While Orange County is now scheduled to reopen, it could be placed back in the list if the case rate or the percentage of positive tests increases for three consecutive days. On top of that, reclosing can occur if the number of hospitalized patients or the percentage of ventilators and intensive care beds available increases.

With a positive outlook from school officials, Orange County is now set to open up many school for the start of September. While the decision to reopen schools falls upon each specific district, many schools have already chosen to reopen for in-person classes and over 100 other schools have applied and are pending approval.

In effort to make everyone comfortable, schools that reopen will also be required to have an online-learning option available if parents rightfully choose not to send their children to school.

It’s imporant to note that in late July over 4,000 emails were sent into the county’s board of education by concerened students, teachers, faculty, and member of the community highlighting why they believe the the schools should or shouldn’t open. Of those 4,000 emails sent, 73% were against opening, 15% were for opening, and 12% were on the fence.

​​​​​​​Despite school officials giving schools the option to open for in-person teaching, with so many students, parents, teachers, and school faculty against the opening of in-person learning, it’s still up in the air how the school year might look this year in Orange County.

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