Pictured: A busy pre-weekend morning at the beach on Seaward Ave. in Ventura on Friday, April 24, 2020, following the city revising beach closure policies to allow for walking, jogging and other “passive movement” on the beach. Photo by Kimberly Rivers

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

”Weeks not months” | County poised to reopen  

On April 27, Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County said the county is focusing efforts on being ready for a gradual reopening when Gov. Newsom lifts restrictions, which Newsom said on Monday, will take place in “weeks not months,” according to Powers. First, Powers said the county is focusing on continuing to increase access to testing, and second, to build capacity for effective contact tracing. 

California’s 6-Point Plan for reopening:

  1. Communities able to conduct testing, contact tracing, isolating and supporting those who test positive and are exposed to virus. 
  2. Ability to prevent infection of the most vulnerable for severe illness from virus. 
  3. Local health system prepared for surge in patients. 
  4. Develop treatments to meet demand.
  5. Physical distancing occurring at businesses, schools and child care facilities. 
  6. Ability to determine process for reinstituting protective measures, if needed. 

County sees curve flattening

On Monday, April 27, Ventura County officials point to a graph they say shows a flattening curve in the number of new coronavirus cases. The graph tracks the positive test results based on the date the person provided a sample for testing.

Provided by Ventura County.

“Since there is a delay in reporting by the laboratories, the specimen collection date provides the best estimate of actual disease transmission because this indicates when they were seeking care for their symptoms,” said Ashley Bautista, public information officer for the office of Ventura County CEO Mike Powers. She was responding via email to questions from the VCReporter.  “Symptom onset date would be even better but we do not have that information available for all of the cases.”  

She pointed out the graph shows a peak of cases on March 23rd and “a flattening of the curve since then.  As testing is expanded to include those who are less high risk, I do expect that the number of cases will increase and we will continue to look to other indicators such as hospitalizations for COVID and percent positivity of total tests.” 

As of the morning of Wednesday, April 29 the total number of people in the county to have died from COVID-19 was 17, with 356 recovered. 9,528people have been tested in the county, with 508 positive cases. More information at www.vcreporter.com/2020/04/vc-covid-19-updates-ongoing-reporting/

Weekend beachgoers crowded neighborhoods

The Pierpont, Ventura Keys and other residential areas near the beach in Ventura were busy with cars, walkers and bike riders over the weekend, but officials report that for the most part visitors to area beaches complied with the rules prohibiting gathering on the sand, and just four citations were issued for refusing to move along on the sand. 

A masked bike rider on Seaward Ave., in Ventura on Friday, April 24, 2020. Photo by Kimberly Rivers

“It was busy, there were a lot of people,” said Ryan Weeks, watch commander with the Ventura Police Department. “We had several officers assigned to work beach patrol and three of our four by fours were on the sand.” He said four people were cited for violating the city ordinance passed last week by the Ventura City Council prohibiting lingering in one place on the sand. Those cited were on the beach near New Bedford Lane in the Pierpont area. “They refused to leave.” He said enforcement protocols involve making several requests for a person to move along, and in the event they flat out refuse that is when a citation, with a $500 fine will be issued. 

“We issued hundreds of parking citations,” said Weeks. “It was pretty rough.” He said they were averaging 80 to 100 each day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in all the coastal areas in Ventura. 

One resident of one of the beach communities who asked not to be named, told the VCReporter “the Ventura police department was completely overwhelmed,” because of the confusion related to state and city jurisdiction on the different beaches. This resident was concerned over many of the people who seemed to be from out of the county.  “LA beaches are closed so now we are inundated with foreigners from a county that has much higher rates of exposure. Not one person was wearing a mask, small children, adults drinking. These were not our neighbors, these are tourists.” 

Weeks said Ventura Police are working closely with California State Parks officials regarding enforcement at their conjoined beach jurisdictions. He said the rules within “the State Park beaches in the city mimic our approach.” 

Hospitals say Emergency Rooms are safe, seek treatment early

On Tuesday, Dr. John Fankhauser, CEO of Ventura County Medical Center told the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, it is “safe to come to our ER.” He said the hospital has put in place safety measures for protection against transmission of the coronavirus and is joining hospitals across the county in encouraging members of the public to seek treatment earlier rather than later for symptoms of any illness or injury. Whether it is a fractured ankle or chest pressure the “ER is the right place,”  to go. 

“We understand that people may be apprehensive to seek care during this time, but we have put a number of policies and procedures in place to protect the health and safety of everyone who enters our hospitals and emergency departments,” said Dr. Neil Canby, a physician in the emergency department at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura. “It’s important that patients not put off coming in to see us when they need care.” 

CMH is reporting they have enhanced policies including mandatory coronavirus screening for everyone, including patients and their essential companions, physicians and staff in the emergency department. Mandatory use of surgical masks for everyone in the emergency departments and using separate waiting areas, including waiting in vehicles in order to maintain social distancing. 

“Some people have delayed necessary ER visits and may be worse off because of it. We urgepeople with health emergencies to take immediate action knowing we are ready,
able and prepared to provide care in a safe environment, just as we always have,” said Darren Lee, president and CEO of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo. New measures in their emergency departments include separate patient treatment areas. 

Quest Diagnostics offering antibody testing

Quest Diagnostics, a national testing laboratory, with several locations in Ventura County is now offering antibody testing, which have been “developed for high-throughput” labs. Tests used are from Abbott and EUROIMMUN, which have been independently validated by Quest. 

Tests are available for patients at the request of their healthcare provider, have no symptoms, including no fever at time of visit, and have been symptom free for at least 10 days. Results would be expected within one to two days. Everyone being tested must wear a face mask. 

All phlebotomists wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during testing and an spokesperson with Quest stated they believe the cost of testing will be “covered by insurers under the [federal] CARES act.” 

Fraud warnings

Ventura County District Attorney is actively investigating schemes to defraud the public involving price gouging, mortgage modification, fake testing and “bogus” products like vaccinations and attempts to get personal information using a fake story that it’s related to the federal stimulus checks. 

Tips to avoid these type of schemes include: Always deal directly with your lender for forbearance or mortgage modification, never use a third party. Never pay a person or a bank for assistance with modifying a mortgage. Never sign a deed that transfers ownership and never grant power of attorney to any loan modifier. 

Never give your personal information to anyone by phone, text or email, the federal government will never request your personal information. For information about the stimulus funds visit only the official website of the Internal Revenue Service at www.irs.gov

The VCDA has received over 200 emails and 80 phone calls reporting possible price gouging in the county. To report price gouging email daopricegouging@ventura.org or call 805-662-1737. 

Small Business loan program reopens

Following the disbursement of funds from the first forgivable loan program through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced it reopened the application process on Monday, April 27.  

Details on the application process and eligibility online at: www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources