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By Collin Breaux

As COVID-19 cases continue surging in Orange County and throughout the country, one medical professional at Mission Hospital said this is an expected outcome and that another peak can be expected by Christmas.

James Keany, the associate director of the Emergency Department at Mission Hospital, recently spoke with San Clemente Times to give his medical perspective on the ongoing health crisis.

Keany urged people to continue wearing a mask and washing their hands, saying they may not realize the importance of following such guidelines because they haven’t previously gone through a pandemic.

“They don’t understand the importance of limiting contact,” Keany said. “The unfortunate reality is people should restrict unnecessary movements.”

Despite the current rise in cases and subsequent advisories against traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving, conditions are not as bad as they were in the spring, when the pandemic first spread, Keany said.

Well over half of the general population is adhering to the public safety guidelines of wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding unnecessary gatherings, Keany said.

“We’re still on the uphill slope of the curve,” Keany said. “It only takes that 15% to 20% to screw us all.”  

Orange County moved back to the state’s highest-risk level and most restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus monitoring system on Nov. 16. A “Limited Stay-at-Home Order” for all counties currently in the purple “widespread” risk tier—prohibiting overnight non-essential work, movement and gatherings—was issued on Nov. 19.

Schools in Capistrano Unified School District will remain open.

South Orange County has had relatively fewer cases and less dire circumstances in comparison to other areas and the nation at large due to the region’s socioeconomic advantages, which include comparatively lower population density, more people having jobs that allow them to work from home, and access to health care and coronavirus testing, Keany said.

“South Orange County is not seeing as big a peak as in other areas, especially North Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego,” Keany said.

Keany said there has been talk of pandemic fatigue, in which people are tired of being cautioned against going out, adhering to safety protocols and not being able to go about their business as usual.

“People want to live their lives,” Keany said. “It’s a normal desire.”

For the public health sector, though, Keany said these guidelines in the face of a safety issue are nothing new, bringing up the necessity of seat belt laws. Safety measures are intended to be for the good of everyone, Keany said.

The pandemic will not end until there is a vaccine and herd immunity, Keany said.

Health professionals and others have become better at treating COVID-19 and learning how to manage it, Keany said. Keany also noted that some teenagers are dying from the pandemic.

“No one’s immune,” Keany said. “Some had no risk factors.”

Data is also available that shows COVID-19 is increasing strokes, blood clots in the lungs, and heart attacks in otherwise healthy people, Keany said.

Zach Cavanagh and Shawn Raymundo contributed to this report.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at                         

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