Orange County supervisors voted Tuesday to join Costa Mesa's federal lawsuit challenging the state and federal government's intent to house at least 10 coronavirus patients in the former Fairview Developmental Center.
The supervisors voted unanimously to approve the filing of an amicus brief in support of Costa Mesa's application for an emergency temporary restraining order.
U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton on Monday extended the emergency temporary restraining order she issued on Friday and urged state and federal attorneys to address numerous questions raised by city and county officials regarding the plan to house patients at the state-owned center at 2501 Harbor Blvd. Another hearing is scheduled for next Monday.
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The multi-building campus, which opened in 1959, once housed about 2,700 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities but is now nearly empty and slated for closure.
"We have been working together since we heard about this,'' said Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel before the board's vote. "I found out actually on Friday... We were totally blindsided because we didn't have a clue."
Steel added, "We're going to join the lawsuit... and do whatever possible that we can do to stop it."
Supervisor Don Wagner called the proposed plan "hasty and ill-considered" while conceding the county has "limited ability" to resist the move.
Supervisor Andrew Do, the vice chairman of the board, wrote an amicus brief with input from the Orange County Health Care Agency's director, Richard Sanchez, and assistant director, Dr. Nichole Quick, that was submitted on Monday.
"The decision was made to eliminate sites nationally that would have been more appropriate at the federal level, and the site at Costa Mesa was volunteered by the state,'' Do said.
Local officials were informed "via conference call with no input from the community," he said, "so there's a lot of shortcomings in the way the issue was handled and how it came to be considered... The process is flawed."
Do praised Sanchez and Quick for their work, which "will ruffle some feathers" among the "hierarchy of public health" officials.
"That took courage and I wanted to acknowledge that," Do said.
"We just demanded that the process be followed and respected," he added. "How much is that to ask? Not much at all. There's a reason why there is a process and a law. Just abide by them and we're good."
Steel and Do argued Orange County is too densely populated to be an appropriate landing spot for those afflicted with the virus that originated in China, known officially as COVID-19.
Quick told the supervisors that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed physicians on a teleconference call this morning that there has been a shift in thinking on the virus.
"The CDC has now sort of announced it looks more like a matter of when, not if, there is community spread" of the virus in the U.S., "which is not surprising given the outbreaks in other countries ...," Quick said. "The messaging now is a discussion of the inevitability."