Guidelines for safe use of forest trails and other public lands: Open spaces and public lands are being closed due to large numbers of people continuing to gather, violating social distancing orders. Help keep trails open by following these guidelines • Feeling sick or have any symptoms? Stay home. • Stay close to home when visiting trails. • Avoid already crowded trailheads and parking lots. Overcrowding is the #1 reason for trail closures; this will help keep our trails open. • Avoid unnecessary risk. First responders and hospitals are overburdened. Always maintain at least six feet from other trail users and stick with just one hiking buddy or your immediate family. • Do not share food or drinks with other trail users, or handle equipment or any item someone else may have touched. • Be prepared. Bathrooms, trash removal, and other services are likely to be suspended. Edited from Guidelines from Los Padres ForestWatch. Photo by Bryant Baker.


by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Where we stand

As of press deadline (Wed., April 1, 10 a.m.), Ventura County is reporting 149 cases of novel coronavirus. Of those, 30 people so far have needed hospitalization related to symptoms of COVID-19 and five people have died in the county.

Of those testing positive, most (57) are between the ages of 45 and 64. So far, Thousand Oaks has the most positive cases (33) in the county, with Simi Valley and Camarillo both with 24 cases each.

117 people are in active home quarantine, and 27 people have recovered.

“We are preparing for a significant increase in patients over the next ten to 14 days,” said Dr. Todd Flosi, M.D., chief medical officer of Ventura County Medical Center. He emphasized the need for the public to continue to respect the social distancing and stay at home orders issued by Gov. Newsom and Ventura County Public Health. “If people continue to go about their business as usual, then we will see many people get infective in the near future, some critically ill and we’ll likely overrun our ability to take care of that many patients at one time, not just our [county] hospitals but countywide.”

He particularly called out to younger county residents who may “hear this disease is mild in young people,” and are still visiting with friends. “You should think about your parents, grandparents, someone you know with chronic medical problem. You may not think social distancing is necessary but you need to think about the people who are high risk.”

On March 26, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, spoke to the press and said that we still don’t know how long a person could be infectious after recovering from the virus. From a medical standpoint, two negative cultures would have to come back, 24 hours apart, to ensure a person is no longer infectious, but Fauci said that will be infeasible in most cases.

Ventura County Public Health issues new health order

As part of the ongoing effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible Dr. Robert Levin, health officer with Ventura County Public Health issued an order extending the previous stay at home and business closure order to April 19, 2020.

A violation of the order is a misdemeanor under the County’s Health and Safety code and could result in fine, imprisonment or both.

The March 31 order includes requirements for restaurants and businesses providing take-out or drive through food service, which include requirements regarding the containers holding food and where food is consumed. For example an ice cream cone or other open container with ice cream is not allowed, but it could be in a container with a lid. Social distancing of six feet is required, and businesses, even deemed essential, must limit all “activities to essential goods and services.”

Businesses are limited in the goods they may sell. The public is encouraged to read the entire order HERE.

State Beaches open to foot and bike access only

 To “prevent visitation surges and help stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19),” the California State Park system has announced certain closures of parking facilities at state beaches including Emma Wood State Beach and San Buenaventura State Beach. Both beaches remain open “for locals,” but parking areas are closed to vehicles. The public can walk or bike to the beach, “provided they practice social/physical distancing of six feet or more.”

The tent camping area at Emma Wood State Beach is closed. The March 31 notice from the California State Park system states, “This is not the time for a road trip to a destination park or beach.” Other closures include restrooms and trails in all state parks for off-highway vehicle riding. All state campgrounds, museums and visitor centers are closed.

Anyone with reservations for camping at state facilities will be notified of the closures and refunds issued.

A complete list of closures is available online at www.parks.ca.gov/flattenthecurve.

County and Channel Island Harbor parks closed

Effective April 1, in response to the threat of continued spreading of the novel coronavirus the Ventura County Board of Supervisors announced all county parks closed.

In alignment with that order the Ventura County Harbor Department announced the closure of parks under its jurisdiction, which include: Channel View Park, Harbor East Park, Harbor View Park and Peninsula Park. The nearby beaches – Silverstrand, Hollywood, Hobie, Kiddie Beach Park and the public launch ramp are being considered for closure. 

Officials are citing the continued tendency of the public to congregate and not adhere to social distancing orders currently in place. public’s continued 

“This will undoubtedly increase the health risks in our area, and that is a situation which cannot be allowed,” said Mark Sandoval, director of the Channel Islands Harbor Department. 

Ron Van Dyke, director of Ventura County Parks said his office is working with state officials to try and get all state beaches – most of the coastline in the county – closed. 

City of Ventura closes parks and beaches

On April 1 the city of Ventura announced that all parks and beaches overseen by the city are closed “until further notice” to “support the urgent need for physical distancing during the COVID-19 emergency period.” 

Closed areas include the Promenade, the Pier and the wildlife ponds at the Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

This action cited the modified county order issued March 31 asking community members to limit outside activity, including restrictions against non-essential travel. 

Helping the homeless

The county of Ventura is providing access to motel rooms in Ventura, Oxnard and Newbury Park for members of the homeless population who are most vulnerable to getting sick from the disease based on guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

POP-UP FOOD PANTRIES:  Food Share of Ventura County has built food-pantry pickup locations across the county for low income families who live in the city where the pantry is located. An ID or other proof of residence (like a utility bill with name and address) is required, and all locations are drive-thru only. One box per household per day; first come, first served. Starting April 1: Three Oxnard locations, 3-5 p.m.  P.A.L. Teen Center, 350 South K St. |  Colonia Village, 1500 Camino del Sol | Garden City Acres Park, 5302 Cypress Road.  Starting April 2: Thousand Oaks, 12-2 p.m. Conejo Creek South, 1300 E. Janss Road.  Starting April 6: Ventura, 12-2 p.m. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd. Starting April 6: Ojai, 12-2 p.m. St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 185 St. Thomas Drive.  Starting April 6: Santa Paula, 3-5 p.m. Old Ford Dealership, 126 Hallock St. Starting April 7: Camarillo, 12-2 p.m. Freedom Park, 480 Skyway Drive www.foodshare.com

 The Backpack Medicine team provides rapid response to encampments and unsheltered locations for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19. For assistance, call 805-515-6940, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. 

Homeless Services are considered essential services. Persons wanting to seek connection to a service provider may call 2-1-1 for linkage to programs and services.

More state tax deadlines extended to July 15

Betty T. Yee, California State Controller and Franchise Tax Board (FTB) chair, announced that deadlines for certain “time sensitive” acts have been pushed to July 15. Those acts are: claims for refunds with the FTB, protests of proposed tax assessments with FTB, appeals to the Office of Tax Appeals and Notices of Action denying claims for refund or affirming tax assessments.

Yee previously extended other filing deadlines to July 15 including: 2019 tax returns, 2019 tax return payments, 2020 1st and 2nd quarter estimate payments, 2020 LLC taxes and fees and 2020 non-wage withholding payments. More information at www.ftb.ca.gov.

Reminder: public drinking water is safe

Ventura Water, the municipal water service for the city of Ventura, has issued a statement that, “COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has no impact on the quality or supply of your tap water. Your tap water is safe and available to drink.” The city does not expect any disruption to water service. Ventura Water Customer Care: 805- 667-6500.

The city of Camarillo states, “The City’s water supply continues to meet all stringent state and federal drinking water requirements, and the current water treatment processes are specifically designed to protect the public from harmful bacteria and viruses, including flu and COVID-19.” City of Camarillo customer service: 805-388-5325

National forest campgrounds closed through April 30

Sites that are “developed recreation facilities,” including campgrounds in national forests, have been closed through April 30 by the USDA Forest Service in alignment with the shelter in place and social distancing orders issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom.  

This closure applies to the Los Padres National Forest. The forest and trails remain open, but the public is cautioned that if social distancing is not practiced, officials could close larger areas.

“We can still go for a hike, run or ride out on the trail, or camp in the backcountry or in dispersed sites,” said Rebecca August, advocacy director at Los Padres ForestWatch. “But we have an added responsibility to take extreme care not to put ourselves and others at risk while we’re out there having fun.”

Grace period for mortgage payments

On March 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a deal with financial institutions in the state to give a 90-day grace period for mortgage payments without negative impacts to credit. Those institutions include Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo and about 200 other state-chartered banks, credit unions and other servicers. Mortgage payers are encouraged to contact their loan servicer for details. Online information: www.covid19.ca.gov/get-financial-help/#top

Agricultural workers are essential

California and the federal government deem agriculture “critical infrastructure” and the California Farm Bureau Federation remains open to assist farmers, ranchers, workers and others in the agricultural sector.

“As people who work in a sector defined as critical, farmers, ranchers and people working in agricultural businesses recognize our special responsibility to maintain normal work schedules,” said Jamie Johansson, president of CFBF in a written statement. “We encourage local, state and federal agencies to interpret the guidelines as broadly as practicable, to be sure everyone in agriculture can stay on the job, producing food and farm products during this crisis.”

 Johansson said, “People involved in agriculture, food production, distribution and transportation of food or agricultural products — anyone working in the food supply chain — people in those critical jobs are allowed and should continue to show up for work,” and that local county farm bureaus will remain open to ensure protection guidelines from health officials are followed.

Conejo Open Space closes all trails

As of March 27, all trails within the management of Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency are temporarily closed to the public. This follows the closure of all open space areas in Los Angeles County.

The agency said the closure anticipated added pressure on the trail system due to closures of the trails in surrounding areas such as Point Mugu National Park, which would generate “visitor levels to the Conejo Valley that cannot be safely sustained on our local open spaces.”

Scam alert from SoCal Gas

Southern California Gas Company is alerting customers to a telephone call scam in which gas company customers are called and told they must pay their gas bill immediately or their service will be shut off. SoCal Gas states that they will never call customers seeking payment and the company has issued a freeze on all service shutoffs until further notice.

The scam may also involve people posing as utility employees. The company suggests always asking to see the badge of anyone claiming to work for SoCal Gas. Visit socalgas.com/scam-alert for additional tips and information about scams.

VC Animal Services cuts many services

Starting March 30, several services of Ventura County Animal Services (VCAS) were temporarily discontinued or reduced. Discontinued services include pet adoptions, owner request euthanasia and spay/neuter services. Owner-surrendered animals are now allowed only in urgent/emergency situations. Those reclaiming a lost pet are asked to call in advance (805-388-4341) and bring proof of ownership.

The public is asked to only bring in stray animals who are sick or injured; cats who appear healthy should “remain in-place.” Litters of kittens should only be brought to the shelter if the mother has not returned for 6-8 hours. Kittens are often left when the mother hunts; leave kittens as found unless it is absolutely necessary to bring them in.

Please know that VCAS will never turn away a sick or injured animal. www.vcas.us

Aera Energy provides relief funds

The Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) has announced a donation of $50,000 from Aera Energy, a local oil and gas operator, for emergency funding related to helping the community in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The funds will be part of the Ventura County Rapid Response Fund for recovery efforts directly assisting families with food and housing support, childcare, wage replacement and more during the pandemic. Funds will be distributed through VCCF partners including Southeast Ventura County YMCA, Give An Hour, and the Small Business Development Center of the Economic Development Collaborative.

Aera donated a total of $355,000 to community response efforts in several counties in California, including Kern, Monterey, Fresno and Santa Barbara counties.