Watch Melissa Fox’s Town Hall with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton — “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19”

Black and brown communities in the United States are being hit much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than white communities. 

On May 28, 2020, Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox held a virtual Town Hall Meeting with special guest Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.” Irvine City Council Member Melissa Fox and Dr. Hilton discuss why people of color have a much higher risk of being infected and dying from COVID-19, what the pandemic reveals about the underlying racial and economic disparities in our society, and what we can — and must — do about it.

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School, medical director of Goodstock Consulting, and a nationally recognized expert on how institutional racism has led to more severe impacts for communities of color from diseases such as COVID-19.

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton received her M.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2008. She remained at MUSC for completion of her Residency in Anesthesia, followed by a Fellowship in Critical Care Medicine. In 2013 Dr. Hilton made history as she was hired as the 1st African American Female anesthesiologist since the hospital’s opening in 1824.

Throughout her tenure at MUSC Dr. Hilton’s passions have centered on exploring the issue of health disparities, particularly as it pertains to race, and bridging the gap between physicians and the communities they serve. Her works have led to her integration in the medical school curriculum, serving as a clinical instructor for fourth year medical students in Intern 101 and has taken her across the globe as a participant in numerous medical mission trips via Project Madaktari at Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Now as a practicing physician at the University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Dr. Hilton has continued advocating for underserved and marginalized populations.

Her efforts have been recognized by the National Medical Association as well as the National Minority Quality Forum as one of the top 40 under 40 Leaders in Health Care award recipients.

She is also the author of the children’s book “We’re Going to be O.K.,” a book about staying safe, healthy, and optimistic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the full Town Hall on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19” here:

Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19

Part One

Part Two

Irvine Creates Local Business Support Program From $5 Million in Federal CARES Act Funds to Help Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

(Irvine, CA) — At a special meeting on May 29, the Irvine City Council voted to establish a Local Business Support Program to provide financial support to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Irvine has received close to $5 million for COVID-19 related grants for the City’s small business community from the federal CARES Act, distributed to Irvine by the County of Orange.

“Thank you to our outstanding Orange County Congressional delegation — Katie Porter CA-45, Harley Rouda CA-48, Lou Correa CA-46, Mike Levin CD-49, Gil Cisneros CA-39, Alan Lowenthal CA-37, and Linda Sanchez CA-38 — for your hard work in bringing these crucial federal dollars back to Orange County.” Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox said.

“We are very happy to be able to use these federal funds to help our small businesses begin to recover from the economic shock of COVID-19.”

The program will allow Irvine-based small businesses that meet the following criteria to apply for one-time grants of $10,000.

To qualify, businesses must:

  • Have 25 or fewer employees
  • Have an active Irvine business license at the minimum of one year
  • Demonstrate a financial impact due to COVID-19, and
  • Have reopened or are ready to reopen, meeting guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the State and Orange County.

An estimated 500 businesses will be able to receive relief funds. Sixty percent ($3 million) of the $5 million City allocation will be directed to businesses that generate taxable retail sales. The other forty percent ($2 million) will be available to other small businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Applications will be accepted for 30 days beginning next week, with grant funding awarded quickly on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds could be used to meet eligible businesses’ working capital needs such as payroll or operating expenses.

Businesses will be asked to provide a budget reflecting the proposed use of grant funds, and will be required to submit a post-expense report detailing how the funding was actually utilized.

“I’m glad we’ll be able to provide some basic recovery to our small businesses, which employ so many people who have been hit hard by the economic consequences of the quarantine, including many people who are self-employed” Councilmember Fox said. “I wish it could be more.”

“Now we need to get the U.S. Senate to pass and the President to sign the federal Heroes Act, already passed by the House of Representatives, which would give $2.7 billion in federal recovery funds to Orange County, so that our first responders, front-line health care workers, teachers, and working families will get the economic help they need and deserve.” Fox added.

More information and a grant application will be available at this week.

Roadmap to Recovery: Irvine Issues New Rules and Guidelines for Stage 2 Re-Opening!

As Orange County moves into the next part, Stage 2, of Gov. Newsom’s Resiliency Roadmap, the City of Irvine has prepared a guide for residents and visitors regarding what is now open in Irvine and what is required and recommended to maintain our safety during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. 

 In Stage Two, the County of Orange will be allowed to have the following businesses re-open with adaptations:

🥙 In-person dining reservations.

🛍 Retail shopping with social distancing and curbside pickup.

🔗 Manufacturing.

🏢 Offices (when telework not possible).

🏯 Outdoor Museums.

▶️ Limited Services.

🚫 What is NOT allowed in Stage 2 🚫:

– Personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios.

– Indoor museums, kids museums and gallery spaces, zoos and libraries.

– Community centers, including public pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

– Limited-capacity religious services and cultural ceremonies.

– Nightclubs.

– Concert venues.

– Live audience sports.

– Festivals.

– Theme parks.

– Hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism – non-essential travel.

– Higher Education.

Please be mindful that the pandemic is not over.  COVID-19 is still among us.  It is still highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Face masks are still required by customers and employees in retail businesses and are strongly recommended for everyone whenever going out in public. Social distancing and hand washing remain our most important lines of defense against the spread of COVID-19.

As we re-enter the social world, we need to take care of ourselves and be careful not to harm others.

We are getting through this together.

For more information visit,

For links to resources and information, please see my COVID-19 Resources and information page.


Congratulations to Irvine on Earning Top Parks Rating in California and 7th in the Nation!

The City of Irvine park system has been ranked 7th in the nation by the Trust for Public Land annual ParkScore Index, effectively making Irvine the top-ranked city in California.

This is the third consecutive year the City’s parks have ranked in the top 10 nationally.

The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore rankings assess the nation’s 100 largest cities on factors such as park access, acreage, investment, and amenities.

Irvine earned a perfect sore in park spending per resident, and is second in the nation for basketball hoops per 10,000 residents.

Among the factors considered in the evaluation is the fact that 82 percent of Irvine’s residents live within a 10 minute walk of a park (compared to a national average of 54 percent) and that 27 percent of Irvine’s city land is used for parks and recreation (compared to a national average of 15 percent).

Of special note, the ParkScore Index did not find any significant difference regarding closeness to parks in Irvine based on the race, nationality, age, or income level of Irvine residents.

The Trust for Public Land works to protect the places people care about and to create close-to-home parks — particularly in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live. It’s goal is to “ensure that every child has easy access to a safe place to play in nature. We also conserve working farms, ranches, and forests; lands of historical and cultural importance; rivers, streams, coasts, and watersheds; and other special places where people can experience nature close at hand.”

Congratulations to my City Council colleagues, our City Manager and City staff, and our Community Services Commissioners, especially my appointee to the Irvine Community Services Commission, Lauren Johnson-Norris, who has worked so hard to improve the experiences of our residents in our parks and open spaces.

Celebrate Harvey Milk Day — Be an Agent of Change!

Today, Friday, May 22, is Harvey Milk Day. I am proud to join millions of people in California and throughout the world today in celebrating the life of Harvey Milk, born on this day in 1930 and murdered in 1978 because of his outspoken and courageous activism in the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Since 2009, in California, Harvey Milk Day has been recognized as a day of special significance and an opportunity to remember and teach about Milk’s life and his work to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians.

We’ve come a long way, thanks in large measure to the courage of Harvey Milk.

When Harvey Milk first ran for supervisor in San Francisco in 1977, he was told that an openly gay man could never get elected. When he won, he became the first openly gay non-incumbent ever to win an election for public office in the United States.

Now there are hundreds of openly gay men and women serving their communities and states in elected office.

But much more needs to be done.

We must continue to fight for the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – in our own communities and throughout the world.

We must ensure that governments everywhere respect the dignity and human rights of all people in regard to their own gender identity.

We must continue to fight for the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

Last year, I introduced a resolution of the Irvine City City to fly the Pride Flag from Irvine City Hall.  

That resolution failed on a 2-3 party-line vote last year. As the OC Weekly reported, “the Irvine City Council voted down Fox’s proposal. Instead, they approved an utterly meaningless substitute motion that authorized councilmembers to fly flags of their choosing in their own offices. Even worse, Councilmember Michael Carroll accused Fox of trying to ‘divide the community’ with her resolution. It’s no wonder Fox – who noted during the meeting that LGBT people around the world face violence for who they choose to love – called the vote a ‘circus’.”

I will bring the resolution forward again this year.  If you agree, please email the Irvine City Council to let them know that Irvine should join the State of California, as well many other states and cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, and the Orange County Fairgrounds, in making it clear to all that our community officially rejects prejudice against people based on who they love and that Irvine is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said Milk was “an agent of change” who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Let’s each of us honor Harvey Milk by committing to being an agent of change.

As Governor Newsom reminds us, today we should remember Harvey Milk’s own words “Hope will never be silent” as we “carry on his fearless  advocacy and work toward a California for all.”

Honor Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

Orange County has a long and proud military tradition.  From 1942 to 1999, Irvine was home to Marine Air Station El Toro, the largest Marine Corps Air Station on the West Coast. During World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War, thousands of United States Marines, as well as airmen, sailors and soldiers, departed for war from MCAS El Toro.  Many never returned.

As the daughter of a combat veteran, as the cousin of a Marine who was killed in action, and as an Irvine City Council Member, I am proud of Irvine’s commitment to honoring our veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For many, many years, my family and I have attended Irvine’s two beautiful Memorial Day ceremonies — a community-led candle-lighting ceremony at the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial and the official City of Irvine Memorial Day Ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps. Memorial Park next to the Civic Center.

Sadly, this year both ceremonies have been cancelled due to the need to limit non-essential gatherings to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

This year, the official City of Irvine Memorial Day Ceremony will be presented online beginning May 25, 2020, for the community to view at their convenience.  The presentation will include words from our mayor, remarks from officers from the City’s adopted 2/11 Marine Battalion, and musical performances from past ceremonies.  For more information, call 949-724-6606.

The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, dedicated in 2010, located at 4531 Bryan Avenue, Irvine CA 92620, is the nation’s first and only memorial dedicated exclusively to listing the names of all the fallen American service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The names of every service member who has died in Afghanistan and Iraq are engraved in granite in a permanent memorial, to ensure that generations of Americans will remember and honor them with gratitude as we do today. Regarding the Northwood Honor and Gratitude Memorial Ceremony, the following notice has been posted on their Facebook page:  

“To all our SoCal friends, it is with great sadness that we announce the City of Irvine, in keeping with the stay at home order, has CANCELED the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial.

The City will be generously donating a beautiful wreath of remembrance.  American flags will be placed around the perimeter of the memorial and candles for lighting for those who would like to visit during the Memorial Day weekend.

There will be staff at the community center if anyone needs help finding the name of a loved one or needs name rubbing materials.

We encourage everyone to please take a few minutes of your time to stop by and pay your respects during the holiday weekend.

To our beloved Gold Star families . . . please know that even though there is no ceremony we will never forget the sacrifices your heroes made for our freedom. Thankfully this beautiful memorial is a daily reminder that our community has not forgotten those who bravely put on our Nation’s cloth and gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

As in past years, I will thinking especially of my cousin, PFC Irwin Handler, USMC, who was killed at the Battle of Chosen Reservoir during the Korean War, and of the son of family friends, Lance Corporal Donald J. Hogan, USMC, Navy Cross, who was killed in Afghanistan.


I will also be remembering Irvine’s own fallen heroes:

Petty Officer Regan Young

Second Lieutenant Mark J. Daily

Lance Corporal Sean Horn

Chief Warrant Officer Steven Michael Larrabee

Major Michael David Martino

Specialist Justin W Pollard

Lance Corporal Michael S. Probst

Major Charles R. Soltes Jr.

Lieutenant Commander Keith E. Taylor

Although we are not able to gather together physically this Memorial Day, we will be gathered together in our hearts

As stated so beautifully and appropriately by the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

“Pausing to remember and honor America’s fallen service members is a practice dating back more than 100 years. Since the days of the Civil War, humble Americans have gathered together on Memorial Day to remember and pay tribute to all who have fought and selflessly surrendered the precious gift of life, so that other could live free.

Again we gather this Memorial Day, as a nation solemnly united in remembrance of the fallen defenders of our great nation. Freedom is not free. It has come at great cost, paid for with the lives of our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, friends and comrades.

Every American owes a great debt to the courageous men and women who have selflessly given their all to defend and protect our way of life. And while giving back to the extent they deserve is impossible, celebrating their memory and honoring their most selfless deeds offers a start.

This Memorial Day, pause to reflect on the absolute selflessness of the 1.3 million members of our nation’s military who paid the price needed to ensure our way of life endures, and let us not forget the families whose pain will never go away, but may lessen with our thanks and prayers.”

God Bless our fallen, their families, and our men and women in uniform all over the world.

The OC Board of Supervisors Should Increase COVID-19 Testing, Work with OC Cities to Distribute Federal CARES Act Funds, and Follow the Governor’s Guidelines to Re-Start Our Economy

As of Monday, May 18, 2020, there have been 4,434 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Orange County, with 88 deaths.  Over the past week, Orange County has averaged 125 new cases and 1.7 new deaths per day

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued new, less retrictive guidelines for moving further into the four stages toward reopening our economy. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or CARES Act, which created a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to be used to help state, local, and tribal governments navigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These federal funds were mean to help American cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Orange County received $554 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government, earmarked for local jurisdictions, in order to pay for services such as police and fire protection, as well as social services.  But none of these funds have been released to Orange County cities.

Orange County COVID-19 Tracker for Mon., May 18, 2020. Source: OC Register

In fact, although 31 out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, the Board of Supervisors has been silent on when, how or whether it intends to fulfill its obligation under the CARES Act to distribute this much needed funding so that our cities remain able to function..

In addition, while the Board of Supervisors has indicated that it plans soon to “re-open” Orange County, the County has not provided the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing needed to improve public confidence and sustain our economic recovery.

Therefore, I have joined with Sunny Park, Buena Park City Councilmember, and 19 other local Orange County elected leaders in writing a letter to the Board of Supervisors calling on them to increase testing, work with local cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to keep OC residents safe from COVID-19 as we re-start our economy.

Here is the full text of our letter to the Board of Supervisors, as printed in the Voice of OC:

“Everyone wishes we could just go back to our old normal life of hugs, handshakes, restaurants and ball games. But we know we’re not going to achieve our “new normal” without a thoughtfully planned process that increases our understanding of the virus, reduces risk of exposure, and includes all responders in coordinated action.

A successful and sustained economic recovery requires that we avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. This is especially true for Orange County, because we depend on tourism, retail, restaurants and entertainment to fuel a significant portion of our economy. If customers do not feel safe in our county’s businesses, recovery will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

Orange County has been operating under a shelter-in-place order since March 19. Governor Newsom acted quickly and, in large part, the residents and businesses of Orange County have complied. As of May 13, there were 3,749 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Orange County, 80 deaths, and 248 were currently hospitalized. While those numbers represent immense human suffering, they certainly would have been much worse without the profound, selfless sacrifices made by our entire community to comply with the stay-at-home order.

New COVID-19 Cases in Orange County by Date Reported. Source: OC Health Care Agency.

We are moving toward carefully reopening the county. Governor Newsom is set to move into Phase 2 of his plan by reopening certain retail businesses in a matter of days, again with appropriate precautions. We support a thoughtful, incremental reopening that avoids the risk of an outbreak that would set back the substantial progress we have made at great cost.

More testing and contact tracing can improve public health and accelerate our economic recovery. More information could allow restrictions to be more narrowly tailored to those who are infected or at-risk.

We need the right kinds of tests to know who is currently infected with COVID-19, and who may have already recovered from it. This is why, as fellow elected officials committed to safely and effectively reopening Orange County, we respectfully requested that the Board of Supervisors aggressively increase antibody and antigen testing in each city that has a qualified testing facility.

Not only do we need the right kinds of tests, we need to consider who receives them. While the Board of Supervisors has taken new steps to allow teachers, essential workers, and senior citizens to receive tests whether they have symptoms or not, it won’t be enough to rebound our economy. We have encouraged the Board of Supervisors to expand this eligibility pool, allowing anyone who requests a test to receive one, regardless of symptoms.

Each city in Orange County has taken local emergency actions on COVID-19, but these actions have significant costs. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside funds to help cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Thirty-one out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, which is earmarked for local jurisdictions. Unless the county begins to distribute these funds soon, our cities will be crippled, which could impact services such as police, fire, or social services.

Each of us can do our part to reduce COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and wearing protective face masks. In addition, we urge public support for more testing in Orange County, and the collaborative distribution of CARES Act funding to our local communities, each of which desperately needs it.”

The letter was signed by the following Orange County elected officials:

  • Sunny Park, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Jordan Brandman, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Jose Moreno, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Glenn Parker, Councilmember, City of Brea
  • Art Brown, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Katrina Foley, Mayor, City of Costa Mesa
  • John Stephens, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Andrea Marr, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Manuel Chavez, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Jan Florey, Mayor, City of Fullerton
  • Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen, Councilmember, City of Garden Grove
  • Kim Carr, Councilmember, City of Huntington Beach
  • Melissa Fox, Councilmember, City of Irvine
  • Sergio Contreras, Councilmember, City of Westminster
  • Kerie Kropke, Board Clerk, Brea Orlina Unified School District
  • Ian J. Mcdonald, Boardmember, Centailia Elementary School District
  • Joanne Fawley, Boardmember, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • Cynthia Aguirre, La Habra Unified School District
  • John Polacio, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • Chris Brown, Board Vice President, Savanna Unified School District
  • Lorainne Prinsky, Board Vice President, Coast Community College District

If you agree with us that OC Board of Supervisors should increase COVID-19 testing and tracing, work with OC cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to re-start our economy, please let the Orange County Board of Supervisors know by contacting them at (714) 834-3100 or sending them an email.

Thank you.

For more information and resources regarding COVID-19, please click here.