Notice anything striking about them all,
1. Mary Anne Foo
2. Then there is Clayton Chau [fraud?]:
Chau is overseeing the county’s billion-dollar Health Care Agency while also taking on the job duties of county health officer.
Chau has drawn attention for pulling back the local mask order that his predecessor Dr. Nichole Quick put in place. Chau, who says he co-owned two Rockin’ Crawfish restaurants until 2012 or 2013, also has taken a more relaxed approach to restaurant enforcement than Quick, relying on an attorney opinion that officials are declining to release.
All that attention on Chau recently drew Orange County residents to his resume, with many raising questions on Twitter about the Ph.D degree he lists from an online university that shut down amid accusations of being a fraudulent degree mill.
Voice of OC followed up and confirmed the state of Texas lists the school as a “fraudulent or substandard” institution, and asked Chau about his Ph.D earlier this week during a county news conference.
Dr. Clayton Chau, who is leading OC’s medical response to the coronavirus pandemic, says in his official resume that he earned a Ph.D in clinical psychology from Chelsea University in London in 2004.
The state of Texas has a UK-based university with that name on its list of “fraudulent or substandard” institutions, saying Chelsea University “has never been recognized as a university with UK degree awarding powers.”
And last year, one of Britain’s largest newspapers highlighted Chelsea University as one of hundreds of “bogus institutions flooding the labour market with ‘thousands’ of fake degrees” where students typically “simply buy a degree and do not have to study.”
During a county press call on Tuesday, Chau took questions about it from Voice of OC. He said he took classes online for his degree and didn’t know the school had shut down until years later, while declining an opportunity to elaborate on what the schoolwork entailed.
“So that was an online school that I participated when I was working as a psychiatrist, a licensed physician. And I finished the degree in 2004 and [unbeknownst] to me that the school was closed. And I didn’t even know that until when I worked for CalOptima…in 2012. And that’s when I found out that the school was closed,” Chau said.
“I have never practiced as a licensed psychologist. And I believe that I am hired to work in this role as a physician. I’m a licensed physician [in] the state of California. And so, you can check my license with the state medical board. I have never had any problems with my license, with – as a physician. I worked for health plans – two health plans, CalOptima and L.A. Care health plan, as a senior medical director. There was never an issue,” he continued.
A search of the California Medical Board showed Chau has a license to practice medicine.
When asked again on Tuesday what was involved in getting the degree, Chau did not explain what the coursework involved, but said he took classes and paid his dues.
“When I enrolled in that program I took classes like everybody else. And I didn’t know that later on they would give out diplomas like that, to get them to close. And so, I did my work, and I paid my due. Unfortunately that was the result of the school. And I didn’t even know, honestly I didn’t even know that they [were] closed,” Chau said.
“I did my work and so – but unfortunately that’s what happened to the school. There are other private schools in the U.S. [that] also closed down as well, so I don’t know if that would be the students’ fault, who went to school like that. So I don’t know what else to say.”
In recent days, questions about Chau’s degree were raised on Twitter by the person behind the @inminivanhell account, who says Chau wasn’t qualified for either the health director or health officer positions he now simultaneously holds.
“To my knowledge, Dr Chau is a psychiatrist who lacks public health experience which should not only cause great concern for residents, but it should make us question why,” said the person behind the account, who identified herself for the record as a mom who lives in Mission Viejo.
“Public schools could reopen in two weeks for in-person classes, we need to have trust in our County Health Officer/Director that decisions are being made based off of science, not politics, and definitely not because qualifications and exaggerated degrees were overlooked by elected officials in an effort to have inappropriate control on decision making,” she added.
The user declined to give her name, citing threats she said she has received over her social media posts.
Asked about the Ph.D degree, county CEO Frank Kim said his decision to hire Chau as Health Care Agency director early in the pandemic was centered on Chau’s experience at local health care plans and background with mental health care.
“When I hired Dr. Chau, it was based on his experience at Cal-Optima, LA Care, Providence St. Joseph Health and his experience with behavioral health which has been a big focus for our county,” Kim said in a response via text message.
Efforts to find a website and contact info for Chelsea University were unsuccessful, with no website showing up in the first several pages of Google search results.
In Texas, but apparently not California, it’s a crime for someone to claim to have a degree they know is fraudulent or substandard. Texas officials publish an official list of such institutions, which includes a UK-based Chelsea University.
Orange County officials, for the second time in recent days, also declined to answer if county supervisors waived requirements that Chau be board certified in order to appoint him as the county health officer leading much of the pandemic response. In addition, officials so far haven’t released documents about Chau’s hiring or his contract.
While Chau has said there were 10 “really outstanding candidates” for the health officer position, county officials have declined a public records request to see the documents related to his recruitment, including others interviewed for the position.
Kim also avoided questions about relaxing requirements for public health at the county’s weekly news conference on Thursday, and Chau didn’t answer when asked again about it at Tuesday’s news conference.
As director of the Health Care Agency, Chau oversees a billion dollar division in charge of pandemic response in the county as well as a host of programs like mental health services.
County health officers typically are a separate position, and under state law are responsible for at least 171 different duties, with broad authority to prevent the spread of diseases. Among their powers is the ability to issue orders, including requiring isolation and quarantine.
In 2014, Chau agreed to pay a $2,000 fine to state authorities for failing to disclose $12,000 in drug company speaking fees he received while leading mental health and addiction programs at CalOptima, county’s health insurance plan for low-income residents.
OC Schools Are Starting up Again: Are They Prepared for COVID And Monkeypox?
Concerns and questions surrounding a rise in COVID cases and monkeypox outbreaks are mounting as schools throughout Orange County begin the new academic year.
Nakia Best, a UCI nursing school assistant professor who works on an advisory group to schools, said in a Thursday phone interview that there may be an increase in COVID cases with the return to school.
“People have been all over. I don’t know if we’re going to see a surge. I think if we take the measures we need to, it will not be as bad,” she said.
Best said those measures include hand washing, wearing masks indoors – even if they’re not mandated – and getting vaccinated.
The statewide mask mandate for schools ended in March.
Her comments came the same day the Center for Disease Control and Prevention eased COVID guidelines – including lifting quarantine requirements for people exposed to the virus.
Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, also said he expects a rise in COVID cases as kids go back to school.
“The number of kids vaccinated in our county is quite low, like every other county. So I predict that we’ll probably see a wave in early fall. Perhaps, God forbid, another wave in the winter because we can’t predict whether or not we’ll have other variants,” Chau said at an Aug. 4 news conference – the first public COVID update since winter.
As of Thursday, 94,347 out of the over 250,000 kids between the ages of 5-11 in Orange County have been fully vaccinated, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency data.
And 167,365 out of the close to 250,000 kids between the age of 12-17 in OC have been fully vaccinated, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Chau said the OC Health Care Agency will help schools host vaccination clinics on campuses.
“The best advice would be for parents to really have a discussion with their pediatrician, as it is related to vaccinating their children. I personally still believe that that is a parent’s decision and it should be a decision made together with a pediatrician,” he said.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 vaccine has long been expected to be added to a required list of vaccines for students, despite pushback from some local educators, parents and students.
According to a statement from the California Department of Public Health in April, the requirement won’t go into effect until the COVID shots get full FDA approval, something officials estimate no sooner than July 1, 2023.
Last month, the department released new COVID-19 guidance for the 2022-23 school year that went into effect on July 1 of this year.
There is no longer a statewide school mask requirement, however state public health officials strongly recommend students and staff still wear masks indoors. State officials are requiring schools to provide masks to students who want to wear them.
In Orange County, many educators, parents, and students railed against the mask mandate while others spoke at school board meetings in support of following public health guidelines including mandatory masking during the past two years.
The school mask mandate ended on March 11.
Concerns are not just centered around COVID this year with cases of monkeypox rising in OC and nearby Los Angeles county.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, respiratory issues and rashes that could be near the genitals or anus.
The disease spreads through close skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox rashes and sores.
Click here for the American Academy of Pediatrics FAQ on monkeypox & children.
There are 52 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in the county as of Thursday, according to the OC Health Care Agency.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency over monkeypox this month and President Joe Biden declared a national emergency over the viral disease.
District spokespeople in Santa Ana Unified and Irvine Unified school districts have provided updates on their websites about monkeypox while other districts have not.
In districts like Anaheim Union and Garden Grove Unified, spokespeople point to using the same precautions as COVID. It remains unclear if these districts have monkeypox tests.
As of Wednesday, Orange County’s COVID positivity rate was about 15% – down from nearly 20% last month – according to state data.
As of Fridayday, 291 Orange County residents were hospitalized for COVID, including 44 in intensive care units, according to state data.
As of Thursday, COVID has now killed 7,247 OC residents since the pandemic kicked off in March 2020, according to the OC Health Care Agency.
For comparison, OC saw 1,590 flu deaths from 2018 to 2020, according to state data.
During that same time, cancer killed 14,183 people and heart disease killed 8,549 Orange County residents.
Following the return to school from winter break in January, scores of students and staff were testing positive for COVID amid an Omicron surge. The surge led to staff shortages at schools across the country.
Is Orange County Poised to Depoliticize Its Public Health Officer?
One of the earliest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic in Orange County was the independence of residents’ chief medical advocate and doctor, the Public Health Officer.
Now, just days after Gov. Gavin Newsom avoided recall with a solid majority, there are reports that the post may be returning to the role of a traditional doctor, with Orange County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong reportedly in line to take over for Dr. Clayton Chau.
Early in the pandemic, county supervisors placed Chau into the slot to replace former Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick — who resigned following threats for her countywide mask mandate — because of Chau’s willingness to avoid mask mandates, as well as backing their politicized handling of the pandemic in Orange County.
In addition to acting as the local Health Officer — traditionally an independent post appointed by supervisors but also connected to the state public health officer — Chau also acts as the head of the county’s billion dollar county Health Care Agency.
Chau’s wearing of the two hats has raised questions for months with cities like Santa Ana looking into establishing their own health department, with cities like Anaheim and Irvine also broaching the topic in public a few times.
OC Supervisors politicized the post of Public Health Officer almost immediately when the pandemic broke out, when they received backlash from their perceived base after Quick instituted a mask mandate that accompanied the first reopening, Memorial Day weekend 2020.
Quick came under intense pressure from anti-mask residents and eventually resigned after it was clear that county supervisors did not support her position and residents began protesting in front of her home.
While the position of Public Health Director has broad powers under state law when it comes to disease outbreaks, the post is also appointed by local county supervisors.
When OC supervisors were interviewing for a Public Health Director to replace Quick, they reportedly asked lots of questions about attitudes toward masking.
They wanted someone who would roll Quick’s order back.
They found that person in Chau, a trained psychiatrist close to Supervisors’ Chairman Andrew Do, who supervisors brought over to run the Health Care Agency.
Yet Chau’s work for supervisors at the agency may be coming to an end as there are increasing reports that Chau may soon be headed to the county’s health insurance plan for the poor and elderly, CalOptima — where CEO Richard Sanchez just abruptly announced he’s leaving in November.
Questions are also flying around about CalOptima’s direction as well as politicization efforts by Do.
Earlier this year, Chau also came under fire when public COVID briefings came to a virtual halt.
Chau has also often noted that his vision of the Public Health Officer is one that coordinates with the vision of the county board of supervisors.
That’s despite the fact that OC supervisors’ vision does not support broad public discussion about COVID or much else, an odd approach for the public’s doctor during a pandemic.
After months of official silence — during the deadliest part of the pandemic — Voice of OC started to host public town halls gathering medical experts to offer the public some sense of independent information on the course of the pandemic here locally.
That almost immediately triggered change.
Following our announcement of town halls, Supervisor Katrina Foley broke with her colleagues and started convening daily news conferences where she gathered many county Health Care Agency experts — including appearances by Chinsio-Kwong.
Yet soon after, Supervisors’ Chairman Andrew Do, a Republican, and the panels’ Vice Chair, Doug Chaffee, a Democrat, both requested that Chau halt agency officials from attending such public briefings – an order that Chau complied with and thus shut down Foley’s efforts temporarily.
That prompted Voice of OC to relaunch its own virtual town halls recently, an effort that drew a strong audience from the public along with calls for more briefings, more informational panels on the pandemic.
Ironically, despite our aggressive reporting during the pandemic, Chinsio-Kwong has consistently shown up to Voice of OC virtual town halls and answered questions — even hard, political ones — with a pretty frank demeanor.
She sounds more like a family doctor and less like a politician.
Chinsio-Kwong was appointed as Deputy Public Health Officer last November.
Increasingly over this year, Chinsio-Kwong has been the most visible and credible face on the pandemic, with many observers wondering whether a switch was imminent given her background and frank assessments during press interviews.
She received her medical degree in osteopathic medicine from Western University, and completed her residency training in family medicine at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.
She specializes in osteopathic medicine, which emphasizes a holistic approach to healing.
Chinsio-Kwong is also certified in functional medicine and integrative medicine with the American Board of Integrative Medicine. Before joining the OC Health Care Agency, she provided holistic care with the St. Joseph – Providence Health System.
That’s a pretty interesting background given the nature of the COVID pandemic and the myriad questions about how people can stay healthy — through a combination of vaccines and natural methods — in this environment.
Chinsio-Kwong, whose father was in the military and lived all over the U.S. as a kid, served as senior medical officer at the Barstow Branch Clinic and a member of faculty for three years at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton’s family medicine residency program.
She also planned and executed all medical and public health joint exercises with New Zealand, Australia and Japanese forces during the Pacific Partnership mission at Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands in 2014.
She joined Mission Heritage Medical Group in South County in 2014 as a primary care physician after seven years in active duty service.
According to one of her official biographies, “Throughout her career, Dr. CK has been devoted to caring for the whole person. She has directed needs assessments and crafted responses to address health disparity, communicable disease control, and population health management; developed a public health infrastructure to protect and promote health and wellbeing and implement preventive interventions and disease surveillance; and, most importantly, brought public health innovations to scale.”
3. Regina Chinsio- Kwong Do
Orange County public health officials have launched a new partnership with a host of Asian American and Pacific Islander groups to help breakdown language barriers and increase coronavirus testing in hard hit communities.
Ellen Ahn, executive director of the Buena Park-based Korean Community Services, said a family she goes to church with all eventually tested positive for the virus and the father didn’t know where to go for help.
“I have a friend I go to Korean church with — we speak korean together. He started coughing and having a fever and he does not speak English. He called me in a panic and we got him tested,” Ahn said at a Friday News conference. “The entire family became positive, because this was a multigenerational family … living together in a small townhouse.”
She said her friend’s father died last month after being hospitalized for the virus twice.
“The fear in my friend’s eyes, I could see,” Ahn said. “The entire family except the 8-year-old daughter does not speak English.”
“I just want you to take a moment of what COVID-19 is like through the eyes of an immigrant who does not speak English.”
The Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Task Force comes after a new state requirement that counties up and down California reduce transmission rates in often working class, minority neighborhoods before more businesses can reopen.
Although most retailers are open under limited capacity, convention centers, theme parks and bowling alleys remain closed.
That requirement was quickly slammed by county officials, who called it a “one-size-fits-all” approach and placed an undue burden on the county’s ability to move into less restrictive tiers in terms of what areas and businesses were allowed to reopen while virus transmission fears abound.
Yet, officials for much of the course of the pandemic backed off key virus containment efforts – such as restaurant enforcement and a mandatory mask order – that left working class communities vulnerable until statewide orders were issued.
Latinos, while making up roughly 35% of OC’s population, have 48% of the total Covid confirmed cases, according to county Health Care Agency data.
Latinos also make up nearly half — 44% — of virus deaths.
Asian Americans, which comprise 21% of the county population, make up over 8% of the COVID-19 cases and 18% of the deaths.
Although the case burden on OC’s Asian American population as a whole isn’t as severe as it is for Latinos, there are pockets of the community that are hit hard.
Vattana Peong, executive director of the Cambodian Family Community Center, said the Cambodian community’s testing positivity rate has been as high as 18 percent.
He said there’s been language barriers the community’s faced along the way.
Shikha Bhatnagar, executive director of the South Asian Network, said nearly all the available resources haven’t been translated to South Asian languages like Hindi and Punjabi.
“Very little if any resources have been available to our community in our language,” Bhatnagar said at the news conference.
Since the pandemic began in March, the virus has killed 1,401 county residents out of 56,587 confirmed cases.
For context, Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, according to state health data. According to those same statistics, the flu kills about 543 OC residents annually.
As of Friday, there were 170 people hospitalized for the virus, including 66 in intensive care units.
Over 975,000 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people. Some people, like medical workers, get tested numerous times.
The Asian and Pacific Islander task force also joins a similar effort by the Santa Ana-based Latino Health Access to address infection rates in predominantly Latino neighborhoods and areas where many residents don’t have the ability to work from home.
Supervisors Doug Chaffee and Andrew Do helped push the Latino Health Equity initiative and the two also pushed for the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Task Force.
Latino Health Access CEO America Bracho was instrumental in getting case rates by zip codes published at the beginning of summer. The data allows researchers to see where the virus hot spots in the county are.
Ahn said the task force is working closely with Bracho and “really learning from what they did because they got a head start and also not to duplicate efforts. So we see this as a collective, beyond the API task force.”
The largest concentration of Orange County’s Asian American — namely Vietnamese American — population is located in Little Saigon, which straddles the cities of Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Westminster, and Santa Ana.
Much of those living in Little Saigon are renters living in multi-family residential units or accessory dwelling units on other people’s property, also known as “granny flats.”
Garden Grove is also home to the region’s Koreatown, where many families face similar overcrowded housing situations like Little Saigon.
Preoccupying much of Little Saigon’s concerns are the ability to reopen the cultural hubs’ array of restaurants and shops.
And the state’s reopening nail salons throughout the county, one of the largest employers of Vietnamese Americans, only came after vocal outcry among political leaders and industry organizations.
County health officer Dr. Clayton Chau, who helped organized the task force, said efforts to address community inequities will continue after the pandemic.
“You will see that the Health Care Agency will really take a new approach,” Chau said in response to Voice of OC’s question.
“So in the population health lense, which actually public health version 2.0 has been changing and introducing to the community, is that we really have to collaborate and pay attention to issues like health equity,” Chau said. “And equity in general.”
5. Susan Huang