Voice of OC | OC Supervisor Calls for Reopening Indoor Malls, Coronavirus Rages in Anaheim and Santa Ana

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett is looking to push state health officials to allow indoor shopping malls to reopen as the coronavirus continues to rip through the Latino community in Anaheim and Santa Ana – where many of those mall workers live.

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“A lot of these indoor malls have a wide expanse of space,” Bartlett said at Tuesday’s county supervisors’ Covid update at their regular public meeting. “I’ve been to some of the outdoor malls lately and, because the indoor malls are closed, the outdoor malls are jammed with people.” 

She said the outdoor malls are so packed, that people can’t follow the CDC recommended six-foot physical distance from other people to help curb the spread of the virus. Reopening indoor malls would thin crowds at outdoor ones and the indoor malls would be able to do crowd control,” Bartlett argues.  

“It also helps to offset the outdoor malls,” she said. “Outdoor malls — they can’t control the people coming in at all.” 

“I think we really have to start looking at opening up the indoor mall sector, I think we can do it safely,” she said. “You can’t classify indoor malls as other indoor confined spaces, like movie theaters,

Bartlett asked County interim health officer Dr. Clayton Chau to press state officials for indoor mall openings and he agreed to work on the issue.  

Yet UC Irvine infectious disease expert, Dr. Saahir Khan, who also treats virus patients at the UCI Medical Center in Orange, sees the move as premature.  

“In terms of opening [indoor] shopping malls, I think it’s premature, given that we haven’t yet seen a sustained decrease in spread of the virus. So I think we made the mistake of reopening too quickly before and we shouldn’t make that mistake again,” Khan said in a phone interview. 

Khan and his colleague, UCI epidemiologist Andrew Noymer, have repeatedly told Voice of OC business sector reopenings should be done in two to three-week intervals so health officials can measure the impact on public health.

Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee asked Chau about the Latino Health Equity Initiative — which aims to help curb the spread in the county’s two biggest virus hotspots: Anaheim and Santa Ana. 

“We have pilot programs ongoing in Anaheim and Santa Ana, how’s that going,” Chaffee asked.