Orange County’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned Monday night.
She has faced push back from some members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and criticism from residents for her order last month to require face coverings for the public as the county allowed some businesses to reopen.
Quick was receiving heightened security due to threats stemming from her the mask order. She was not made available for comment Monday night.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee said Quick resigned apparently because “it was too much for her. She has three young children and she’s been severely criticized by people who came out demanding her resignation, demonstrations in front of her home.”
“She’s done her best to give her medical opinion and it’s not popular so she has resigned,” he said.
Quick’s resignation was the second major and abrupt departure in Orange County since the pandemic began. David Souleles decided to retire in April as deputy agency director of public health services.
The plan is to have the recently appointed Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau also serve as the chief health officer so the county can issue health orders required by the state to reopen businesses and activities such as bars, day camps, community pools, hotels and youth sports.
Chaffee was not sure what would happen with Quick’s mask order. Chau has defended it, explaining it is required when residents cannot maintain six feet of social distancing.
Chaffee noted that for all the residents who have shown up at Board of Supervisors meetings to complain about the mask order, officials have received a great deal of expressions of support for it. One resident’s online petition supporting the rule got 1,100 signatures in less than a week.
“The email is 10 to one to keep it,” Chaffee said. “They’re afraid to show up (at board meetings) because of the confrontation it will entail.”
Chaffee said he would “stand by whatever the medical opinion is” going forward.
Quick has said she would reconsider the mask order in three weeks, “and we’re at day nine or 10,” Chaffee said.
Quick has said she issued the order because she was concerned about an increase in coronavirus cases as residents would be interacting more as stay-at- home orders were relaxed. As of Monday, the health agency reported 7,527 confirmed cases of the virus and 177 deaths.
Last week, Quick drew criticism from Supervisor Don Wagner, who questioned the need for face coverings as he said other parts of the state were backing away from those orders. Quick replied that Los Angeles and San Diego counties were requiring them.
“We are seeing an increase in community transmission,” Quick said at the June 2 board meeting. “I also think our hospitalization rates have been trending up.”
Quick said face coverings “can help prevent the transmission of COVID- 19. There is evidence to support that and I feel strongly we need a face covering order in place as we continue to send people out into more social interactions.”
Reached Tuesday night, Wagner said: “It’s disappointing that she’s leaving us. It’s a very difficult time for all of us.
“My stance hasn’t changed,” he said of the mask order. “Whoever replaces her needs to look at the mask order and decide if it’s appropriate and explain to us and to the public why it is necessary under the current circumstance.”
Wagner had said at the recent board meeting some residents have complained of “public shaming” for not wearing a face covering and have been denied service in “pharmacies and other places. Is that an appropriate response to your mask policy?”
Quick replied, “I absolutely think people should not be shamed if they have a medical reason for not wearing a mask.”
When Wagner asked her how much longer it needed to be in place, Quick said: “Like all things in COVID, we evaluate the data and evidence on a daily basis… As long as we’re seeing increasing numbers in the county… I feel the need for a face-covering mandate.”
Staff Writer Jeong Park contributed to this report.