Family of nursing home resident who died: ‘She had 3 really good years there and 1 really bad week’

Karen Johnson, 77, spent about three years in the Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont.

“She was at an unlocked memory care facility in Hemet, but she got to the point with her Alzheimer’s and dementia … where she needed to be in a locked facility,” said her daughter, Dena Garcia.


Eye of the Storm

Southern California Nursing Homes during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Latest installments in a continuing series

  • Part One:  What do Southern California nursing homes hard hit by COVID-related deaths have in common? We spoke with experts, nursing home administrators and advocates to find out.
  • Part Two: A tale of two Pasadena nursing homes. One, Gem Transitional Care Center, hard hit by COVID deaths and another, Camellia Gardens, about four miles away, that wasn’t.
  • Today, Part Three: Highland Springs Care Center in Beaumont has one of the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths per average daily number of residents of any skilled nursing home in Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino counties.

The series was produced by correspondent Brenda Gazzar and SCNG staff writer Beau Yarbrough, participating in the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s California Fellowship.


Garcia, who lives in Moreno Valley, would visit her mother regularly.

“I had a really good relationship with people who worked there. I knew them, they knew me, I could show up at any time,” she said.

And her mother seemed to like Highland Springs:

“She was a very outdoorsy person, so I think she liked getting outdoors and still feel like she was getting outside,” Garcia said, although she noted that Johnson still wasn’t allowed to leave the grounds.

In March, as the coronavirus pandemic swept into Riverside County, Highland Springs stopped all visitation. Management told residents’ families they had a rigorous routine for keeping staff, residents and the facility clean and virus-free. All employees were screened for temperatures when they arrived each day, for example. According to her family, Johnson even appears in a March 23 video about hand washing on the Highland Springs Facebook page.

“She had three really good years there and one really bad week,” said Johnson’s grandson, Kyle Garcia, who lives near Fort Worth.

On April 11, Dena Garcia was told that her mother was running a fever. Three days later, Johnson was sent to the emergency room at Banning’s San Gorgonio Memorial Hospital, where she was nonresponsive. Previously, she was capable of holding conversations and, her dementia and Alzheimer’s aside, was in generally good shape, according to her family.

Highland Springs spokeswoman Liz Tyler blames asymptomatic spread for the virus getting into Highland Springs.

“It’s not like the memory care facility created this virus or served it with breakfast,” she said. “It came in from the outside.”

Despite housing those most vulnerable to COVID-19, nursing homes don’t have the same tools as hospitals do to fight it, she said.

“Nursing homes, they don’t have negative space rooms like you have in hospitals. They have shared ventilation,” Tyler said. “It is an extraordinary effort to contain it.”

Highland Springs stopped admitting new residents on April 13, after the facility was first informed a resident had tested positive for COVID-19.

On April 17, Highland Springs was told Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19. Staff ended up testing all of their patients that same day, Tyler said. Sixty-one out of 86 residents tested positive, most of whom were asymptomatic.

“Their suspicion is it came with an asymptomatic staff member and it may have been a staff member who had a job in more than one facility,” Tyler said.

The facility gave employees an ultimatum, requiring them to only work at one facility, and residents who had tested positive were put in isolation.

Johnson died April 19 — the only person to die of COVID-19 in Riverside County that day, according to county health officials. She was the 75th person to die in the county of the disease.

A nurse at the hospital held up the phone so Dena Garcia could say goodbye to her mother.

“I just told her that I loved her and that we didn’t want her to suffer,” she said. “If it’s your time, it’s your time and you can go. Even without the coronavirus, Alzheimer’s is just a terrible, terrible disease.”

It has been a tough year for Dena Garcia: The last time she saw her mother alive was the day before Garcia’s father was buried. Two of Johnson’s six other siblings also have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

As of Sept. 11, 20 Highland Springs residents have died of COVID-19, roughly 24% of their 84 average daily residents, according to an analysis of data from Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare database and the California Department of Public Health’s Skilled Nursing Homes COVID-19 database.

According to Tyler, Highland Springs hasn’t had any new residents test positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of June.

“They got hit with an invisible bomb, they jumped on it, they did the isolation necessary,” she said. “Even with their dementia population, they kept it from spreading.”

The Garcias feel Highland Springs wasn’t as forthcoming as it should have been about the spread of the coronavirus in the facility, something Tyler denies. But the family is sympathetic to the challenge that Highland Springs faces trying to keep dementia and Alzheimer’s patients from contracting COVID-19.

“You can’t teach them to not eat off each others’ plates. You can’t teach them to keep their hands to themselves. You can’t teach them to not pick up a half-smoked cigarette and smoke it for themselves,” Dena Garcia said. “It’s just going to happen.”

According to Tyler, the big challenge isn’t keeping the virus controlled inside nursing homes; it’s keeping it from coming in from the world outside, where, six months on, the public still can’t agree on how to prevent the virus’ spread.

“This bug is easy to kill. You just have to know it’s there. Once you know it’s there, you separate, do all the cleaning and all the things like that and you get rid of it, like this facility did,” Tyler said. “But any facility in this country, no matter how good their protocols are, they’re just one day from an asymptomatic person coming in.”

This article was produced as a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s California Fellowship.

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Coronavirus: Reopening of Orange County schools now delayed to Sept. 22, at the earliest

Orange County’s schools may be able to open in-person on Sept. 22 – not Sept. 8 – the Orange County Health Care Agency announced late Monday night via Twitter.

Under a new four-color, tiered monitoring system, Orange County is in the most restrictive of the tiers, but it’s on track to bump up to the next tier on Sept. 8.

The county would then remain for 14 days in that tier, county health officials confirmed with the the California Department of Public Health, according to the late-night Tweet.

That means that the earliest schools could welcome students to campuses is on Sept. 22.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new color-coded tier system on Friday, there was initially much confusion among Orange County educators as to what it meant for school reopenings. Then, the county’s health officer, Clayton Chau, tweeted that the switch to a new monitoring system did not reset the 14-day countdown and schools could still open as soon as Sept. 8, if lower case trends continue.

I confirmed with the State that has not changed for OC except for the update in the new blueprint usually occurs on Monday and the State posts on Tuesday, so the school reopening would be Tuesday, September 8, right after Labor Day weekend.

— OC Health Care Agency (@ochealth) August 28, 2020

On Saturday, county health officials cast doubt on that opening date. In a Tweet, officials said they requested clarification from schools on the 14-day wait cycle. “State indicated we would get credit for those days. More to come.”

Update re: Gov.’s new system. We’ve requested additional clarification from State re: schools as there are several counties, including #OC, who are in limbo as we were part way thru prior 14 day cycle to re-open. State indicated we would get credit for those days. More to come.

— OC Health Care Agency (@ochealth) August 29, 2020

The answer apparently came late Monday night.  The earliest Orange County schools can open to in-person learning will be Sept. 22.

County Health Officer received confirmation from @CAPublicHealth that #OC is on track to enter into Red Tier on Sept. 8. Providing we meet Red Tier metrics at that time, there will be a 14-day wait for all K-12 schools to be eligible for reopening, which could happen on Sept. 22.

— OC Health Care Agency (@ochealth) September 1, 2020

Al Mijares, county superintendent of schools, said in a statement Monday night: “I know how frustrating it is to be in this position, given the complex planning it takes to restart our campuses.”

“Dr. Chau has advocated strongly on our behalf, but the state was firm in its response.”

To learn more about the new color-coded monitoring system: Orange County lands in most restrictive tier of new coronavirus tracking system 

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These O.C. parents have a message for Gov. Newsom, teachers’ unions: ‘Open up the schools.’

A pro-charter school group brought some 75 parents, teachers and a couple of Orange County Board of Education members together Tuesday evening to rally for the reopening of schools that were closed because of coronavirus concerns.

Parents, they said, should be making the choice of whether their children learn on campus or online.

“Open up the schools,” the crowd briefly chanted.

  • Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cecilia Iglesias, left, and Orange County Board of Education member Mari Barke, right, join others outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s Parent Union, a pro-charter school group. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and school board member, works for the center and organized the meeting with Barke’s help. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Rhonda Furin, center, joins others during a reopen the schools rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a group called “Parent Union.” It’s a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A man holds up a sign during a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by a“Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • About 75 protesters gathered outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office for a ‘reopen the schools’ rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cecilia Iglesias protests outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office during a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member, organized the rally as the head of the “Parent Union,” a pro-charter school group under the libertarian California Policy Center. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeff Barke, a physician who advocates for the reopening of schools without social distancing or face masks, leads a ‘reopen the schools’ rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Police Center’s Parent Union group, a pro-charter group that said parents should have the choice of whether their children can return to campus for in-person learning or continue with online education. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Protestors gather outside the Santa Ana Educators Association for a reopen the schools rally in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jeff Barke, right, leads a rally outside the Santa Ana Educators Association office in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. The rally calling for the reopening of schools was organized by the California Policy Center’s “Parent Union.” (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Flanked by American flags and punctuated with religious references and prayer, the rally was organized by the Orange County-based California Policy Center’s “Parent Union,” which pointedly chose to host its event in front of the offices of the Santa Ana teachers’ union.

“That’s why we’re here,” said Jeff Barke, an Orange County physician who regularly advocates for reopening schools without face masks or social distancing but mentioned neither safety precaution during the rally. Instead, he and others focused attention on teacher unions, which have advocated for resuming school online for now.

“We’re here to let them know we’re sick and tired of the schools being closed. It’s not based on science. It’s not based on statistics. It’s not based on facts. It’s based on union power. “

Barbara Pearson, president of the Santa Ana teachers’ union – the Santa Ana Educators’ Association – called the protest “another desperate grab for attention in their struggle to stay relevant.

“It has nothing to do with the reopening of schools or the students of Santa Ana.  Governor Newsom made the decision to close schools, not the unions.  Our priority is the safety of staff and students,” Pearson wrote in an e-mail Tuesday night.

On July 17, Newsom ordered that all public and private schools in counties seeing a spike in coronavirus cases could not reopen for in-person learning in the new academic year. That affected all of Orange County’s schools, except for those elementary schools that are applying for a waiver. (State officials unveiled the waiver application process Monday night; it’s likely to impact mostly private and parochial schools.)

During the rally Tuesday, a few teachers spoke about the detrimental effects of online learning on all students, but especially those who need special services. Students have regressed academically since schools shut down mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, they noted. And many who are in vulnerable situations, some speakers said, have been made even more vulnerable, exposing them to abuse and even suicide, because they don’t have their safe haven – school – to turn to.

Mari Barke, an elected member of the Orange County Board of Education and Jeff Barke’s wife, told the crowd, to “keep fighting” to reopen schools.

“Parents are in the best position to make decisions for their children,” Mari Barke said.

Last week, her board voted to file a lawsuit against Newsom to force a reopening of schools. Fellow Trustee Ken Williams also addressed the crowd, invoking God and talking about “the fight for the children.”

The rally was organized by Cecilia Iglesias, a former Santa Ana councilwoman and former School Board member who works for the California Policy Center, a libertarian think tank that focuses on issues like pension reform and charter schools. The Center runs four chapters of the Parent Union in Southern California. Iglesias said she hopes to hold similar rallies in other counties.

“Our call is a call to action, to let parents choose,” Iglesias said prior to the rally. “We’re suggesting: open up the schools, following safety guidelines, and give parents the choice.”

Read more about These O.C. parents have a message for Gov. Newsom, teachers’ unions: ‘Open up the schools.’ This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed

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Orange County supervisor says she expects announcement relaxing mask requirement on Thursday

Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau, who is also serving as the interim public health officer, is expected on Thursday, June 1, to issue a new order making it a “strong recommendation” people in the county wear a face covering instead of a mandate during the coronavirus pandemic.

The expected change in policy comes days after Dr. Nichole Quick, who issued the mask mandate last month, abruptly resigned Monday following threats and a protest in front of her home, as well as push back from Orange County supervisors.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said Chau is expected on Thursday to alter Quick’s order to make mask wearing “strongly recommended” instead of required – the new order would take effect at midnight that day.

Bartlett said she wants to keep in place the county’s mask ordinance adopted in April for grocery stores and other retail businesses.

“I want to keep that in effect, not only to protect the public, but the workers,” Bartlett said. “There are certain businesses where you can’t do the six feet of social distancing.”

Bartlett said the mask order will help boost confidence of diners and shoppers.

“I think the public at-large would feel more comfortable knowing that businesses are taking those extra precautions when they can’t socially distance,” Bartlett said.

During a Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Tuesday, Chau defended Quick’s mask order, which was issued in May as county officials received permission from the state to reopen some businesses, including dining in restaurants.

Quick had said she issued the mask mandate, which is required whenever a resident cannot maintain six feet of social distancing, because she feared an outbreak of cases as more people congregated as stay-at-home orders were relaxed.

On Friday, the county is expected to a further relax restrictions on businesses to allow bars, gyms, family entertainment centers, community pools and others allowed in the beginning of Stage 3 reopenings in the state.

Chau was appointed interim public health officer on Tuesday. At the time, he declined to say when the order might be revised, suggesting it was something he would discuss it with the county’s next permanent health officer.

Chau, who also has a doctorate in clinical psychology, was appointed head of the Health Care Agency in April to succeed Richard Sanchez, who took over as head of CalOptima, the county’s insurance program for low-income residents.

Staff Writer Alicia Robinson contributed to this report.

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Cheering for Kobe Bryant was a ticket to Southern California life for many of the region’s Asian Americans

With limited English, 10-year-old James Kim broke the ice at lunch with his new classmates talking about Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, and how they took the Los Angeles Lakers to the championships in 2001.

Now living in Long Beach, cheering for Bryant was how Anne Milo Shanahan still connected with cousins back home in the Philippines.

  • Laker fans gather in front of a mural of Kobe Bryant on the 1300 block of Lebanon Street across from the LA Convention center in Los Angeles Monday, January 27, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 28: Fans leave condolence message on boards to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, at a memorial set up outside of Staples Center on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Kobe his daughter Gianna, were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on January 26 in Calabasas, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 28: Fans gather to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant at LA Live on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 28: Items left by fans to pay their respects to Kobe Bryant at LA Live on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 28: Fans shoot baskets at a memorial wall near Staples Center in honor of former NBA great Kobe Bryant who, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died January 26 in a helicopter crash, on January 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Kobe and “Gigi” were among nine people killed in the crash in Calabasas, California as they were flying to his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, where he was going to coach her in a tournament game. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

  • People mourn Kobe Bryant outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • The ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier is lit in purple and gold in honor of LA Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.
    (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

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And, watching the basketball legend run the court on television with her 90-year-old grandmother are special memories for Yvette Tung.

“That’s what you talked to people about,” Tung, 38, of Hacienda Heights, said. “All of a sudden, you have integrated. You’re in LA now.”

Southern California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community grew significantly in the 2000s, just as Bryant reached his peak with the Lakers. For many in the community trying to find their place in the ever-sprawling region, Bryant was their gateway to Southern California and its culture, to a classroom with few immigrant peers, to a family divided by generations or continents.

And with the news of his death and eight others on Sunday, Jan. 26, in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas hills, several said they still find themselves mourning days later.

“Kobe was our guy,” Josh Chung, 26, of Los Angeles, said. “Now, it’s all gone.”

In 2000, Kim was dropped into foreign surroundings when his family moved from South Korea. He hadn’t watched many Laker games in Korea, but in Burbank he found new friends as he fell in love with the team just “when Kobe and Shaq were going nuts.”

“It was always the topic of conversation you can bring up to people,” Kim said. “Our core friend group was white kids, Mexican kids, half-Asian kids, but we were religiously following Kobe. That was really what tied us together.”

“Ask a Korean” blogger who writes under the pen name T.K. Park moved to Cerritos from Korea as a 10th grader in 1996, just as rookie Bryant was emerging with the Lakers.

“Just starting conversation was so much easier. You had to just talk about the Lakers,” said Park, who now lives on the East Coast. “It’s like magic, where you have to say a certain word and you gain admission into the society.”

Southern California is “self-segregated,” he said, “there’s nothing that really holds it together other than sports.”

And, you didn’t have to be a kid to find a lifeline in Bryant. Tung said her grandmother emigrated from Taiwan to the United States in the mid-1990s. Ready to move beyond the safety of a familiar mahjong club, her grandmother gravitated toward watching Laker games, Tung said.

“She would relate to the small guys because my grandmother used to be a small guard too,” Tung said. “And she really, really appreciated that Kobe makes most of his free throws.”

Her grandmother doesn’t know English well – she calls players by their numbers – but she and Tung can connect watching and talking about the Lakers.

“It’s really been a connecting tissue,” she said.

Shanahan came to the United States from the Philippines when she was turning 5 and has lived in Long Beach ever since. She remembers when Bryant visited the island country in 1998, dancing with the locals and checking out basketball courts.

“It really helped the Filipino community feel close to him,” Shanahan said. “We don’t have a lot of prevalent icons, so he kind of felt like that for many of us.”

Chung said he also saw a dedication in Bryant that resonated with him and a lot of his friends.

“We grew up with people telling us, whether parents or coaches, you have to work hard,” he said, “and that’s that immigrant narrative that a lot of us saw in Kobe.”

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Irvine council picks Great Park golf course site for Orange County veterans cemetery

A 100-acre plot that had been intended for a golf course in the Orange County Great Park will become a veterans cemetery, the Irvine City Council decided late Tuesday, July 23.

The decision is intended to settle more than five years of debate over where the county will lay its military service members to rest, but a few outstanding issues could slow or derail the project.

Council members chose the golf course site in a 4-1 vote after several dozen residents, including veterans, urged them to move forward – though some speakers and Councilwoman Melissa Fox, who cast the sole no vote, favored a site on the Great Park’s northern border that was originally pitched for the cemetery in 2014.

Known as ARDA, that northern site still contains buildings, runways and contamination such as asbestos from the former El Toro Marine air base, and state estimates peg the cost of cleanup and the first phase of a cemetery at $95 million.

A formal review of the golf course site, which is south of the ARDA parcel and was also part of El Toro, hasn’t taken place but city officials project a cemetery’s initial phase could be built there for just under $59 million.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion, which included comments from several dozen residents, centered on which site would be better, cheaper or faster to build on, and there were plenty of disputes over which side’s facts were accurate.

FivePoint Holdings, which is overseeing development of much of the Great Park and the surrounding homes, has pledged $28 million – of which $18 million had been promised to build the golf course – toward the cemetery project.

Officials also expect $24.5 million from the state and a potential $10 million in federal reimbursement for the project.

The company’s offer led some speakers to accuse council members of conspiring with FivePoint to free up the ARDA site for development, an assertion Mayor Christina Shea called “ridiculous.”

To address that, Councilwoman Farrah Khan asked for a future council discussion on rezoning the ARDA property, where current rules allow 250 homes, two hotels and a retail center. That issue should come up next month.

One remaining obstacle is a state bill that designates the ARDA site for the cemetery; it will have to be amended.

And former mayor Larry Agran, who has led the charge to build on the ARDA site, could pursue a ballot measure to enforce what he says is the will of city voters. Agran backed a 2018 initiative that overturned a council-approved land swap that would have put the cemetery on a different site owned by FivePoint that is now used to grow strawberries.

Some veterans just want to see the matter settled for themselves and their fellow service members. Vietnam veteran Bill Cook urged the council before the vote: “Don’t kick the can down the road any farther.”

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Graduation 2019: Villa Park High in commencement photos

Orange Unified School District’s Villa Park High celebrated its Class of 2019 at a commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 13, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

  • Alexandria Poteat gives a zot sign during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Carly Shotwell, right, waits in line with her fellow graduates before the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Graduates walk across the field during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Confetti gets caught in the safety nets as parents celebrate during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Underclassmen applaud as graduates head to their seats at Angel Stadium during the Villa Park High School graduation in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Aaron Duncan shows off his diploma during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates prepare to walk across the field during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates cross the infield at Angel Stadium during the Villa Park High School graduation in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates wait in line before the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dr. Kenneth Miller, principal at Villa Park High School, speaks during their graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates prepare to walk across the field during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates wait in the tunnel before the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates celebrate during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Brianna Schroeder speaks during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates listen to the National Anthem during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates line up before the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nathan Cerulli waits with his fellow graduates before the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduate Dalia Verde celebrates with family after the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates head to their seats at Angel Stadium during the Villa Park High School graduation in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • James Gagliardi celebrates during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A pigeon decides to crash the party during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Julien “JuJu” Franklin waves to his family during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Karla Bustamante waves to family after receiving her diploma during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nayeli Gonzalez poses for photos in front of Angel Stadium after the Villa Park High School graduation in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduate Brianna Guerra gets a hug during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Family members of Sydnie Johnson celebrate after the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduate Jillian Cline smiles as she shows off her diploma during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cameron Illingworth poses for photos with family after the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Family members wait for their graduate after the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates, including Sophia DeLoera, center, celebrate during the Villa Park High School graduation at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Graduation 2019: Brea Olinda High, in Brea, commencement photos

Brea Olinda Unified School District’s Brea High celebrated its Class of 2019 at a commencement ceremony on Thursday, June 13, on campus.

  • New graduate Rania Jaradat, left, takes a selfie with her sisters Jeneene, center, and Dania after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Kaylen Cradle reacts when she sees her family in the stands as she enters the stadium to begin the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Parents react when they see their son or daughter enter the stadium during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates take their positions at the start of the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • History teacher Johnpaul Wilson, left, gets a hug from Isabella Ortega after she received her diploma during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Brea Olinda High’s principal, Dr. Ixchel Sanchez, right, congratulates a graduate after she received her diploma during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Andrew Ryan, right, gives coach Michael Baker a hug after after receiving his diploma during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jacob Anquiano gives the “hang loose” hand sign as he enters the stadium to at the start of the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Callalily Egan wore spectacular earrings for her graduation during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Nathan Wyse points out his diploma to his family in the stands during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduates throw their graduation caps into the air at the conclusion of the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduates embrace at the conclusion of the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Jaylene Hernandez, center, is all smiles as joins fellow graduates in their seats during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Faith Wood waves to her family as she stands in line to receive her diploma during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduate Rayna Alonzo, center, is joined by her family for a fun group photo following the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduates line up for a group photo after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Daniel Parahnevich, left, and his girlfriend Ashley Chen hold up photos of Parahnevich’s sister and graduate Liza during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Seung Yeon Choi waves to her family in the stands during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • John Cruz waves to his family in the stands during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates motion with their arms as they sing the school’s alma mater at the conclusion of the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Efren Zuniga, left, struggles to pick up his son Efren, Jr. as his family members, right, laugh at his efforts following the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduate Marcellus Brown, center, is photographed with his parents, Frankie and Cheryon following the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduates Keona Saltas, left, and Rachel Spadt celebrate after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Hundreds of family members and graduates pack the field for celebration and photos after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Craig Smith, left, takes a photo of his granddaughter Khalil Morton against the school banner after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduating seniors sing “Season of Love” from the musical “Rent” during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Melanie Oliva, center, gives the valedictorian address during the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • As graduates and their families celebrate, John Ojeda, a custodian at Brea Olinda, begins stacking chairs following the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • After the majority of graduates and families left the stadium a few stayed around for a few more photos after the 2019 Brea Olinda High School commencement ceremony in Wildcat Stadium at Brea Olinda High in Brea on Thursday, June 13, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Graduation 2019: Fountain Valley High in commencement photos

Huntington Beach Union High School District’s Fountain Valley High celebrated its Class of 2019 at a commencement ceremony on Wednesday, June 12, at LeBard Stadium in Costa Mesa.

  • A graduate shows off her diploma to her family in the stands during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joely Knoob jumps off the platform after receiving her diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Trinity Kuiland, 17, left, gets a hug from her boyfriend Jaylen Flores, 17, after he graduated at the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A graduate shows off her diploma to her family in the stands during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Carranza family hold up photos of graduating senior Giselle Carranza, 18, as she enters the stadium at the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Moises Prado lifts up his son Christian after he graduated in the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduate Jerome Dovan, 18, left gets a hug from his mother, Vananh Nguyen after the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A graduate does a dance around his diploma he laid on the field during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Thousands of parents and family members attend the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate celebrates after receiving her diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A graduate points to his family in the stands after receiving his diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Family crowd around a railing to photograph their graduation senior during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate celebrates after receiving his diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate celebrates after receiving her diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate celebrates after receiving her diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate gets a high-five from a faculty member during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate shows her diploma to her family in the stands during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A graduating student gives the thumbs up during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A new graduate does a dab after he receives his diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Joely Knoob celebrates after receiving her diploma during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduate Marlon Atuatasi, 18, is loaded down with leis after the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Graduates pose for photos after the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduated Jamal Assaf, 18, poses for a photo with his family after the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduates embrace immediately after the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • New graduate Ivy Duong, 17, left, poses for a photo with her nephew Zed Apricio 6-months after the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A family gathers for a photo after the 2019 Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Hundreds of graduating students take their seats during the Fountain Valley High School graduation ceremony in LeBard Stadium at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Placentia debates forming own fire department, amid criticism from OCFA

Would Placentia forming a new city fire department and relying on a private ambulance company for emergency medical calls be a responsible move to curb out-of-control costs, or a “reckless gamble” that would put the city’s residents at risk?

Residents, firefighters and city leaders debated those questions – and the future of fire and emergency medical services in Placentia – at a packed meeting Tuesday, June 4. As of 11 p.m. the proposal was still being discussed (check back for updates).

Some speakers praised the service provided by the Orange County Fire Authority, which Placentia has contracted with for more than 20 years for fire protection and 911 medical response.

But others said they understand and support looking at other options, considering that regular increases to how much the city pays the authority have far outpaced the growth of Placentia’s overall budget.

After months of research and a request for bids for firefighting and EMS services, City Administrator Damien Arrula proposed that the city form its own agency to handle firefighting and related services, and hire Lynch Ambulance to respond to medical emergencies and take patients to the hospital.

A report to the council projected the first year of a new Placentia Fire and Life Safety Department and EMS services from Lynch would cost the city $6.1 million, compared with $7.1 million to stay with OCFA – and Arrula forecast that potential savings could grow to more than $28 million over the next 10 years.

Opponents of the proposal, including OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy, criticized the proposed use of some reserve firefighters, and that Lynch has never provided 911 service to a city before.

“These are professionals. They know what they’re doing. They’ve got all the resources they need,” resident Blake Montero said of OCFA.

In a letter posted on its website, the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association – which represents OCFA firefighters – called the city’s plan “a reckless gamble” that would give residents lower-quality service.

But others said they’ve watched the city cut other public services and the Police Department shrink while bills for fire protection consume more of the budget.

The council was elected not just to ensure public safety, but to be responsible with taxpayers’ money, resident Dennis Blake said.

“That means you have to look out and see what’s the best thing for the city,” he said. “That’s what you’re doing.”

Several speakers against the proposal urged the council not to make a decision right away and to try to work things out with the authority. A report to the council noted that OCFA declined to submit a bid.

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