By Collin Breaux, Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo

A handful of annual community events in South Orange County have been postponed or cancelled as fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus continue to be a cause for concern among cities and event organizers.

The city of San Juan Capistrano announced Thursday, March 12, that the 62nd Annual Swallows Day Parade—scheduled for Saturday, March 21—is postponed. The San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association hosts the annual event. No rescheduled date was given in the press release.

“After careful consideration and based on guidance from public health professionals, the City of San Juan Capistrano and the Fiesta Association have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Swallows Day Parade,” the press release said. “City staff remain in daily communication with the County Health Care Agency and emergency managers, and will continue to follow guidance from state and federal authorities related to upcoming community events and City programs in order to protect the health and safety of our residents, visitors and business community.”

Organizers for the Festival of Whales also announced Thursday morning that the second weekend of events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15 would be canceled.

“In light of yesterday’s announcement by Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health advising the postponement or cancelation of public mass gatherings of 250 or more to slow the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), weekend two of the Dana Point Festival of Whales has been canceled,” stated an email from Festival organizers.

Newsom announced on March 11 an updated policy on events in light of COVID-19. The state’s public health experts have determined that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March.

Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people.

A spokesperson for Ocean Institute stated that the Ocean Institute Fest 2020 Culinary-Music Festival will be postponed to coincide with the Tall Ships Festival on Sept. 11-12.

The number of coronavirus cases in Orange County had increased to six as of this posting, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency website. Four are presumptive cases and two are confirmed. One man who had coronavirus has since recovered.

The World Health Organization labeled coronavirus a pandemic. As worries over a potential coronavirus pandemic continue to grow, local medical and government officials are encouraging the community to remain calm, stay informed and, most importantly, wash your hands.

The City of Dana Point and its Emergency Services Division are currently monitoring activities relating to the COVID-19, according to a city statement.

The County approved a Local Health Emergency Declaration on Feb. 26. While Orange County does not have a COVID-19 outbreak, the approval of the declaration allows the County the ability to request additional mutual aid assistance from other local, State, and Federal agencies, in both resources and funding.

The State of California approved a State of Emergency on March 4, which allows the state, counties, and local governments to reserves, resources and assets that would not normally be available, and reduces and/or waives requirements local agencies would have to follow regarding declaring local emergencies.

HCA has established a Health Referral Line and is taking questions from the public about the Coronavirus at 800.564.8558.  Additional information can be found on the HCA website ocgov.com/gov/health.

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