Federal government says it won’t put coronavirus patients in Costa Mesa

In a major victory for Orange County, the federal government will not pursue a plan to send coronavirus patients to the Fairview Developmental Center after intense local opposition and legal action.

“The federal defendants have decided not to move forward with the challenged proposal,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Beck wrote in a filing Friday in federal court. “As a result, the court should dissolve the temporary restraining order and dismiss this action.”

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton granted Costa Mesa’s request a week ago for a temporary restraining order that prevented federal and state agencies from placing people with the coronavirus known as COVID-19 at the vacated, state-owned Fairview Developmental Center for isolated monitoring and care. The patients, as many as 30 to 50, have been quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.

On Monday, Staton extended the restraining order while directing state, federal and local officials to sort out information about the Fairview proposal before another scheduled court hearing next Monday.

But Beck wrote in Friday’s filing that “the federal government has no plans to use the Fairview Developmental Center, or any other facility in Costa Mesa, to house individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

“Sounds like a win to me,” Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens said late Friday afternoon. “I’m absolutely thrilled by the federal government’s decision. … It’s the right decision, and it came with a lot of work and convincing by the Costa Mesa legal team and the good work by the county and our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Mayor Katrina Foley’s response was more measured.

“This is at least a temporary victory for the citizens of Costa Mesa and Orange County,” Foley said in a statement. “But the government has not promised not to place future infected persons there, so the battle is not over. We will continue to ask the court to prohibit the government from using this completely inappropriate facility for housing people infected with a highly communicable and potentially fatal disease.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, the California Health and Human Services Agency said the federal government informed the state that the Fairview Developmental Center was no longer needed, since passengers testing positive for COVID-19 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who would have been sent to Fairview, were at “the imminent end of [their] isolation.”

“The temporary restraining order prevented Fairview from being available at a time when it was critically needed,” the statement said.

Davis and Pinho write for Times Community News.




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