Pictured: The Promenade at Ventura’s beach has been opened for walking, jogging and biking after being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Sen. Jackson joins pandemic response committee

California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson has been appointed to serve on the newly formed Senate Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response. The bipartisan group is made up of 11 senators and will review the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis to determine ways to improve responses and prepare for future pandemics. 

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District which includes the western portion of Ventura County and all of Santa Barbara County. 

Constituents with concerns about the response and/or in need of assistance accessing available pandemic-related benefits can call Sen. Jackson’s office in Oxnard at 805-988-1940.

Port of Hueneme hosted blood drive

Local blood supplies are lower than usual because fewer people are giving blood due to the pandemic. To help ease the shortage, the Port of Hueneme hosted a blood drive on April 16 initiated by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) with the stevedores. The American Red Cross conducted the blood drive. 

Navy builds capacity to provide PPE

In response to the pandemic, the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) based in Port Hueneme and the Pacific Fleet Seabees have shifted the workflow of onsite 3D manufacturing capabilities to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) kits approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The PPEs will be used by workers protecting military personnel at various locations, including the USNS Mercy hospital ship currently at the Port of Los Angeles.

The mask developed and manufactured by the Navy Warfare Center. Photo submitted.

Once fully adjusted for this purpose, the NAVFAC-EXWC will be able to print 1,000 face-mask kits per day, in the event that they are needed by the fleet. Each kit will include an American-made MERV13 filter media that provides some viral filtration, a 3D-printed frame, four rubber bands and a cloth patch — all disinfected and carefully packaged in a plastic bag.

“This endeavor is focused solely on preparing for a response if called upon. Being ready now, our efforts will allow NAVFAC to accelerate the production and shipment of needed personal protective equipment,” said Todd Jonas, certified professional engineer and Additive Manufacturing Implementation Lead with NAVFAC EXWC.

United Way strives to supply 1,500 care kits to homeless

United Way of Ventura County is extending its Rapid Response Homeless Care Kit drive to June 1 in order to assist local unhoused residents of Ventura County during the pandemic.  Each kit costs $7.50 and provides basic essential hygiene supplies. Kits are distributed by the backpack medicine team. For details and to donate, contact Amy Duganne at amy.duganne@vcunitedway.org or visit: www.vcunitedway.org/.

State can restrict recreational fishing

The California Fish and Game Commission has granted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife authority to temporarily “delay, suspend or restrict recreational fishing” in specific areas if such action is deemed necessary to protect public safety in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This action allows CDFW to respond to local requests for action on an as-needed basis. The temporary authority expires May 31. CDFW will reach out to county and tribal governments in an effort to evaluate local concerns and associated health risks. 

Food distribution for families in need

Ventura County Food Share continues each week to host pop-up mobile food pantries across Ventura County for low-income residents that live in the area near the distribution location. Drive through only, bring verification of local address. 

Current schedule:

MONDAYS | Ojai, 12 p.m. St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 185 S. Thomas Aquinas Drive. Ventura, 1 p.m. Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd. 

WEDNESDAYS | Oxnard, 1 p.m. College Park, 3250 S. Rose Ave. 

THURSDAYS | Thousand Oaks, 12 p.m. Conejo Creek South, 1300 E. Janss Road

FRIDAYS | Santa Paula, 1 p.m. Harding Park, 1330 E. Harvard Blvd. 

SUNDAYS | Moorpark/Simi Valley, 1 p.m. 709 Science Dr., Moorpark

For more information, visit www.foodshare.com.

County parks, beaches open

On April 17, the Ventura County Parks Department announced the reopening of county-run parks, with an emphasis that social distancing orders remain in effect. Certain facilities like parking lots and restrooms at county parks remain closed. Playgrounds, tennis courts, community centers and campgrounds also remain closed. 

The county manages three golf courses. Saticoy remains closed, with plans to open this week. Soule Park in Ojai and Rustic Canyon courses are open. 

David Sasek, director of the General Services Agency which oversees the county park system, emphasized that the facilities can remain open so long as those who visit the parks maintain social distancing. “We’re asking the community’s help to keep these facilities open. When visiting our parks, please remember to practice social distancing so that we can continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19.” 

County list of parks is online HERE. 

Ventura allows movement through parks and beaches 

At a special meeting on Monday, April 20, the Ventura City Council voted unanimously to allow “passive” movement through parks and beaches within the city’s jurisdiction. 

 “Standing or sitting on the beach,” and at parks “is prohibited,” said Erik Nasarenko, Ventura City Councilmember for District 4. 

People may walk, hike, jog, bike, surf or otherwise move through these public spaces but cannot engage in activities where they stay in one place, such as picnicking or sunbathing. 

Nancy O’Connor, director of Parks/Recreation and Community Partnerships, said she has confirmed with the state parks and harbor master that they will “mimic” the actions of the city to ensure local consistency between city-, county- and state-managed beaches. 

 

The ordinance drafted by city attorney Gregory Diaz effectively “opens the sidewalks, walking paths, trails, the promenade…the pier,” at all city parks and beaches. Diaz emphasized every space is still subject to the social distancing requirements of the Ventura County Public Health orders, as well as the prohibition of gatherings. 

“Public safety is our number one priority,” said Jim Friedman, council member from District 5. He said the emails he’s seen from residents are split 50/50 between those wanting these spaces to open up and those wanting to keep them closed. “No matter what [we do], we are going to be criticized,” he continued, but noted that those who do don’t share the “awesome responsibility and liability” of the council in protecting public safety during the pandemic. 

 The council directed the city attorney to add a “tiered” enforcement approach suggested by Friedman in the event that the public does not comply with the rules, starting with temporary closure of the area, and fines or citations to individuals. The on-duty police watch commander will have the authority to determine enforcement action. The council will review data and compliance on a weekly basis. 

 A map and list of city parks and beaches is online at HERE

County receives state funding for COVID-19 response

On April 21, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors authorized the county Public Health Director to receive $731,524 from the California Department of Public Health to fund local emergency preparedness actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Gold Coast Recycling reopens buy-back facility

On Monday, April 20, the Gold Coast Recycling facility at 5275 Colt St. in Ventura that was closed due to the pandemic will reopen, with operating hours of Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. All customers are required to wear gloves and masks and all recyclables must be bagged and categorized as plastic, aluminum or glass. Mixed items will not be accepted. 

For more information call: 805-642-9236.

Additional unemployment benefits 

The California Employment Development Department reports that in the past four weeks, it has processed 2.3 million claims for unemployment — more than the total number of claims for all of 2019. Last week, Californians who were receiving unemployment benefits qualify for an additional $600 per week as a result of the federal CARES Act approved recently by Congress to help Americans cope with loss of work related to the pandemic. Those already receiving unemployment funds do not need to do anything. More information online at www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm

Benefits for business owners, self-employed and independent contractors

Various categories of workers in the state who previously would not receive unemployment assistance now qualify and can apply through the state’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, set to start on April 28. Through this program, residents can claim up to 39 weeks of benefits depending on when workers became impacted by the pandemic. Payment of benefits will be retroactive to the first full week of February, if eligible. More information online at www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.htm

Some funds available for undocumented workers

While many undocumented workers are employed in California and have dollars removed from their paychecks for benefit programs, they usually are not eligible to receive any benefits. Gov. Gavin Newsom changed that last week when he announced a plan to provide benefits to undocumented workers in California by designating $125 million for an emergency relief fund. Advocacy organization say that amount is a good start and will help about 250,000 of the 1.5 million undocumented workers in the state. 

“Immigrant families are essential to the social fabric of this state,” said Kimberly Alvarenga,executive director of the California Domestic Worker Coalition. “Undocumented workers contribute over $3 billion each year in taxes, they grow and prepare our food, care for our loved ones and build our homes.”

VC DA provides free consumer mediation services

With courts closed and not processing small claims cases, consumers can take certain disputes to the Consumer Mediation Unit of the Ventura County District Attorney’s office, which works with all parties to resolve complaints between businesses and consumers. Mediations are held by telephone and email, all information is confidential. For more information call 805-654-3110 (West County) or 805-306-7930 (East County).