Pictured: Triage tents are ready at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. Photo submitted. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

First COVID-19 death in county reported

Ventura County Public Health announced on March 22 that a person in their 70s who tested positive for novel coronavirus and had COVID-19 died. The person had underlying health conditions. This is the first death in the county attributed to the virus and resulting illness.

As of Wed., March 25 at 6:50 p.m.  Ventura County Public Health is reporting 50 positive cases in Ventura County. Seven of those people are being treated for their symptoms in hospitals; the remainder are well enough to be isolated at home. 808 tests have been completed. (Online updated after press deadline, Wed. March 25, 6:50 p.m.).

Evictions halted in most cities, Ventura and County considering action

Camarillo, Ojai, Oxnard, Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks have all halted evictions within their city limits in the wake of novel coronavirus.

Megan Lorenzen, assistant city attorney for the city of Ventura, said their office has drafted two ordinances that the Ventura City Council will consider on Monday, March 30. One places a moratorium on only residential evictions, and the other halts both residential and commercial evictions. The ordinances will be posted by Friday, March 27, on the city’s website.

“Given current state, county and local executive COVID-19 related emergency executive orders, evictions realistically can’t proceed for practical as well as feasibility issues, independent of local moratoriums,” said Brad Conners, city manager for Port Hueneme. He said pending state legislation, Assembly Bill 2887 “will supersede all local moratoriums anyhow…There will be no evictions in Port Hueneme.”

On March 24, Ventura County supervisors heard a report and status of eviction moratoriums in the county and indicated to staff their desire to move forward with considering a halt on evictions in the unincorporated area with emphasis on ensuring renters understand they are still required to pay rent.

James Mason, city manager for Santa Paula, said the city council would be considering a moratorium at their April 1 meeting and David Rowlands, city manager for Fillmore, reported that the Fillmore City Council approved an eviction moratorium on March 24.

If evictions are halted, renters are still required to pay their rent. But if renters are unable to do so due to their place of work closing, sickness or other impacts to their income related to the virus, the eviction moratoriums prevent them from losing their housing. All unpaid rent would come due at a later date.

Secured tax payments due April 10th

Annual deadlines for secured property taxes have not been changed. The Ventura County Treasurer-Tax Collector does not have the authority to extend the timeline for property tax payments. The second installment of 2019-2020 Annual Secured property tax bill was due on Feb. 1, 2020 and will be delinquent on April 10, and penalties will be assessed.

All county offices are closed due to orders related to COVID-19 public health protections. Tax payments can be made online at prop-tax.countyofventura.org/ using a credit care. Processing fees will apply.

Payment (check, cashier’s check and money order) can be mailed, postmarked by the deadline, to the Tax Collector’s payment processor at: PO Box 51179, Los Angeles, CA 90051-5479 or to the Tax Collector’s main office, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura, CA 93009-1290.

Waiver of late-payment penalties will be considered after April 10 “with proven significant economic hardship, directly caused by the COVID-19 situation.” Waiver forms are available after the deadline online at: www.ventura.org/ttc/

Questions: 805-654-3744 or helpinghand@ventura.org.

“Flushable” wipes go in the trash

Some people may be using hand or surface wipes as a way to sanitize, but water officials remind the public that those wipes should never be flushed down the toilet as they become a hazard and can block pipes. Even wipes labelled as “flushable” do not disintegrate in the same way as toilet paper and therefore should be put in the trash.

Federal IRS information – Tax Day now July 15.

Tax payers now have until July 15 to file their federal income tax returns. The IRS has closed all in-person tax assistance offices until further notice.

Tax credits for small and midsize businesses have been authorized and some types of tax payments can be deferred. More information online at: www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

“Stay Well at Home” order emphasized

In the interest of public health, all California residents have been ordered to comply with stay-at-home orders unless they are engaged in “essential activities,” which include grocery shopping, getting medications and other healthcare items from a pharmacy, medical appointments (that have been checked with doctor first), or getting takeout, delivery or drive-thru from a restaurant. Walking pets and taking them to veterinarians are also allowed. Helping others with their essential needs is also allowed as well as traveling to care for or help a friend or family member.

Social distancing — allowing six feet between all people — is required even during essential activities.

The following activities are not allowed under the stay-at-home order: visiting friends and family when there is not an urgent need; travel to a job that is outside the county, unless the job is allowed as an essential activity; travel to or from a vacation home outside the county. It is also not allowed to visit others in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility.

Law enforcement responds to businesses not closing

On March 20, the Ventura County Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee issued a written statement with the intention of clarifying how the recent orders issued by Ventura County Public Health requiring the complete shutdown of some businesses would be enforced. Bars, gyms and movie theaters were included on the list of businesses that must close. Non-essential travel and gatherings are also restricted.

“It is our intention to work with business owners to ensure they are aware of and comply with the directives without the need for any enforcement action,” the statement said.

Public transit schedule changed

Beginning March 26, the Ventura County Transportation Commission is instituting modified schedules on four routes. This will result in reduced service. The routes effected are: Highway 101 – Saturday schedule will run Monday to Saturday; Highway 126 – Saturday/Sunday schedule will run Monday to Sunday; East County – Saturday schedule will run Monday to Saturday; Channel Islands – Saturday/Sunday schedule will run Monday to Sunday.

The Coastal Express and Cross County Limited bus schedules will remain unchanged and the Route 99 bus will operate all seven days.

Questions? 1-800-438-1112, www.goventura.org, GOVCBUS App 

SoCalGas payment offices close; payment options still available

SoCalGas branch payment offices were closed on Monday, March 23, and the company warned that some authorized payment locations may also close or provide intermittent service. But there are other ways for customers to pay their gas bills, including:

  • Dropoff at depository boxes at existing branch offices (include bill stub or account number with payment).
  • Dropoff at any authorized payment To locate, visit socalgas.com/pay-bill/ways-to-pay/payment-locations
  • Online at com/pay-bill
  • By phone (with credit card, debit card or e-check) by calling 1-800-427-2200.
  • By mail, by sending bill stub with check or money order to: SoCalGas, P.O. Box C, Monterey Park, CA 91756-0000

In addition, service disconnections will be suspended until further notice, and late payment fees are being waived for small business customers. Customer service related to essential and emergency service will continue unabated — although non-essential services such as some appliance check-ups and visits for inoperative pool heaters, barbecues and fire pits are being suspended. For more information on these and other issues, call 1-800-427-2200 or visit socalgas.com/coronavirus.

St. John’s prepares for possible surge

Dignity Health St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital (SJPVH), and St. John’s Regional Medical Center (SJRMC), members of Dignity Health, have taken a proactive measure to prepare for a possible surge of patients seeking evaluation for COVID-19. Triage tents have been erected at the two locations to ensure the community has access to care if they are experiencing possible symptoms related to the coronavirus. The outdoor triage tents will provide a safe environment for patients and providers to assess patients without needing to go inside a busy office. These tents have not been activated yet but are on standby should there become a demand for expanded services. For more information, visit DignityHealth.org/PleasantValley, and DignityHealth.org/StJohnsRegional.