MOORLACH UPDATE — Ebola — October 29, 2014

Out of the some 310 million people in the United States only 4 have contracted Ebola, and they contracted it while they were in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and/or Sierra Leone. All the same, it has been a major story on every news network in the nation. Consequently, Orange County Public Health Officer, Dr. Eric Handler, M.D., MPH, FAAP, provided a presentation at yesterday’s Board meeting, titled “Ebola: Focus on the Facts” (see http://cams.ocgov.com/Web_Publisher/Agenda10_28_2014_files/images/23-10282014_9845236.PDF). For more details on the Ebola Virus Disease, visit the County’s website at http://ochealthinfo.com/phs/about/dcepi/epi/disease/ebola. This website also includes the regular updates that Mark Refowitz, Orange County Health Care Agency Director, is sending to me and my Board colleagues. He is keeping us well informed, including personal phone calls when necessary. The Voice of OC covers the topic in the first piece below.

The OC Register provides its observations of yesterday’s Board meeting’s discussion on the Board’s efforts to obtain a year-round homeless shelter (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Santa Ana City Council — October 28, 2014) in the second piece below. A clarification: Supervisor Nelson’s Fourth District does not include the city of Santa Ana, as this city is completely within the First District.

The third and final piece is from the Daily Pilot. At the end of last week, the County received a letter from Vanguard University of Southern California notifying our Human Resource Services Department of its intention to withdraw from the employee tuition reduction program (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Tolerance — October 7, 2014 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Political Stunts — October 11, 2014).

OC Health Officials: Ebola Risk "Nonexistent"

By THY VO

The much-ballyhooed Ebola fever has seized national attention in recent weeks as news media and politicians alike have focused on the four Americans who have contracted the virus, one of whom has died.

Now Orange County Supervisors want to know what the county is doing to prepare for the unlikely day that Ebola fever arrives at their doorstep.

At the Board meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Todd Spitzer peppered public health officer Dr. Eric Handler with questions about the county’s preparation for a potential Ebola outbreak.

“Even though you’ve made a very good point about how it’s not airborne and takes direct contact with either feces or other bodily fluid…but people are still scared,” Spitzer said. “We want to get as much information as possible.”

According to Handler, the risk of contracting Ebola in either Orange County or the United States is virtually “nonexistent,” unless a person has recently had contact with the bodily fluids of an infections Ebola patient.

The Ebola virus has killed nearly 5,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where years of war and instability has eroded both the economy and public health infrastructure.

Ebola is a highly infectious disease, but not a very contagious one, meaning that while you don’t need much contact with infectious fluids to become ill, the virus does not move very easily from person to person.

Individuals aren’t contagious until they begin to show symptoms, which include fever, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, bleeding and bruising.

On Tuesday, Spitzer’s questioning of Handler prompted the disclosure that two people in Orange County have returned from travel in West Africa, but they have not shown symptoms and were not exposed to the disease, Handler told supervisors.

Like many volunteer health workers returning from the region, the travelers will take their temperatures twice a day for 21 days, during which time health officials will monitor their conditions, Handler said.

Five U.S. airports are currently accepting flights from the region, where travelers are all screened for the disease. Health officials are notified if any of those travelers are headed to Orange County, Handler said.

“The more recent cases have been isolated quickly so they pose no threat to the general population to the US,” Handler said.

“While we focus on preparing for the possibility for an Ebola case, let’s be mindful that influenza is a preventable disease that causes 36,000 deaths in the United States,” he added.

Spitzer, who requested the presentation at a meeting last week, asked Handler if he would consider restricting the movements of those two travelers.

Handler said restricting their movement was not necessary given that neither person was exposed to Ebola-affected regions.

Spitzer was also concerned about individuals who might refuse to comply with the precautionary measures.

“Let me ensure you, I will not hesitate to do a public health order of quarantine,” Handler said.

The Health Care Agency is conducting on-site visits at hospitals and training drills to educate staff on federal guidelines for Ebola response. Handler said county hospitals are also screening patients based on their travel history and symptoms.

Supervisor Shawn Nelson pointed out that the only four cases of Ebola that have occurred in the United States were among healthcare professionals who treated fully symptomatic, and therefore contagious, Ebola patients.

“Everyone who has gotten it, it’s made perfect sense how and why they got it,” Nelson said.

Supervisor John Moorlach asked at what point he, as a county official, should be concerned and step in.

The best anyone can do, Handler said, echoing the message of federal officials, is stem the outbreak at its source.

“I think the most important thing is how we control [Ebola] in Africa. That clearly is the front line,” Handler said.

Short-term homeless shelters approved for Fullerton, Santa Ana

The sites may open Nov. 10 and remain so until mid-April

BY NICOLE SHINE

Seasonal homeless shelters could open as early as Nov. 10 under a plan approved Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

The temporary shelters at armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana would provide beds and services to the homeless until about mid-April.

Supervisors agreed to shift $500,000 in funds meant for year-round shelter operations to the temporary facilities after plans for a year-round shelter in Santa Ana stalled.

In July, supervisors agreed to buy a $3.6 million industrial building in Santa Ana at a location the city identified two years ago. But last week, amid residents’ concerns, the Santa Ana City Council unanimously approved a 45-day moratorium on new homeless shelters in the city.

Shawn Nelson, who chairs the board and whose district includes Santa Ana, expressed frustration over what he described as “fear-mongering” in the city.

“It is a universal truth everyone believes we should fix the homeless situation and everyone agrees that it’s urgent,” Nelson said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Everyone agrees that right up until they find out the address is near them, it should always be somewhere else.”

The year-round shelter is part of the county’s 2010 Ten-Year-Plan to End Homelessness. An estimated 12,700 people in Orange County are homeless, according to county data from 2013.

Supervisor John Moorlach suggested approaching Santa Ana lawmakers with the idea of a short-term pilot project, possibly at the bus depot; he suggested the board consider the concept at a future meeting.

Nelson expressed “no appetite” for bringing a pilot project before the board.

Supervisors have not approved the final purchase of the 23,000-square-foot building in Santa Ana. The matter is likely to come before the board in late November, a county spokeswoman said.

Staff writer Alejandra Molina contributed to this report.

Contact the writer: nshine or Twitter:@nicolekshine

Vanguard pulls out of tuition program

O.C. employee files a complaint alleging that the policies of the Christian school conflict with county’s non-discrimination promise.

By Hannah Fry

Vanguard University ended its participation in a reduced-tuition program with the county after a complaint was filed alleging that the religious school’s guiding principles violate the county’s non-discrimination policy.

Before withdrawing its participation in the program Friday, the Costa Mesa Christian university was one of three local higher-education institutions that offered reduced tuition at a rate of 25% to county employees in exchange for advertising on the county’s internal web communication system.

A letter from Vanguard to the county said the university will still offer tuition discounts to county employees through its "professional colleagues" program.

"Due to concerns voiced by a few county citizens, it appears prudent to withdraw from the formal agreement so that the university and the county can continue to serve our community as faithful stewards and trusted advocates," the letter states.

Vanguard officals could not be reached for further comment.

Brandman University and National University are still part of the program.

Chris Prevatt, a program facilitator with the Orange County Health Care Agency, filed a complaint with human resources in September after receiving an email notification about the program.

Vanguard is affiliated with the Pentecostal Christian sect of Assemblies of God, which rejects premarital sex, homosexuality and gay marriage. Students who violate the school’s policies in those areas can be subject to discipline, according to the university’s website.

"The behavioral standards, coupled with the faith confession, make it clear that this institution specifically promotes, advocates and defends discrimination against individuals on the basis of religious faith and sexual orientation," Prevatt wrote in his complaint.

The 17-year county employee, who is gay, believes the principles outlined on Vanguard’s website conflict with the county’s equal employment opportunity policy, which states that the county "provides for equal opportunities in all aspects of employment" without regard to sex, race, religion, age or sexual orientation.

"If Vanguard wants to have its policies, then as a private school they are able to do that," Prevatt said in an interview. "The issue is the role of government. If the county’s policy is that we don’t discriminate, then why are we promoting an opportunity that by its very nature is discriminatory?"

Employees who choose to take advantage of the program are able to select which college meets their needs. The county does not force anyone to attend a particular institution, according to a disclaimer on its website.

"The views and opinions of the universities do not necessarily reflect those of the County of Orange, and the county’s partnership with an educational institution is not meant to convey or endorse any particular view or opinion," the disclaimer states.

Prevatt said that since Vanguard offers certain degrees that the other schools do not, by partnering with a university that accepts students on the basis of religious beliefs, the county isn’t providing an equal opportunity for all of its employees.

"The county feels that the relationship with Vanguard was not discriminatory," said Supervisor John Moorlach.

Prevatt said he hopes the situation will force the county to look at its policies when negotiating contracts in the future.

"I’m just glad that it’s resolved," he said. "Vanguard made the honorable decision."

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