Pictured: Local Target stores can now sell all their products in store, while small retail stores are limited by state orders to curbside pickup. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Last week Gov. Gavin Newsom laid the pathway for reopening, with counties moving into Stage 2 of modifying the stay-at-home and business closure orders, calling it a “health first” approach that provides “flexibility.” This involves a shift from an essential vs. nonessential plan to identifying businesses that are low risk or high risk, with guidelines for dine-in options being provided on Tuesday, May 12.

“We recognize the impact of economic hardship. We must get our economy roaring once again and put paychecks in people’s pockets,” said Newsom during a press briefing on May 4. “But the risk of COVID-19 infection is still real for all Californians and continues to be fatal.”

Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County, during the press briefing on the coronavirus response on May 4, 2020.

“This is all retail,” said Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County, on Tuesday, May 12, clarifying that the opening is not limited to the few examples listed by the state. “Not every county is moving forward . . . because of the great work of this community keeping our numbers low, that is allowing us to move forward.” He said that since Friday, May 8, 525 businesses have registered with the county to reopen. 

The state reopening guidelines do create an inconsistency with larger box stores being allowed to sell all their products in-store, whereas smaller retailers are only allowed to sell their products through curbside pickup. 

Kim Prillhart, director of the Ventura County Resource Management Agency, said the county has received some registration requests from businesses that are not included in this round of opening. She mentioned dog grooming as an example of a business that is not able to reopen at this time. She suggested that such businesses can get prepared with plans, but asked that they not register yet. 

“We’re trying to get the parks . . . and beaches open with parking, but we’re not there yet,” said Kelly Long, chair of the Board of Supervisors, emphasizing that they are “advocating” with the state for further reopening of all types of businesses. “Too many emails to all of us saying we’re not doing enough.” 

Retails stores are able to open with curbside pickup/delivery. Related manufacturing and supply chain businesses may also reopen with directives outlined in the May 7 order issued by Dr. Robert Levin, health officer with Ventura County Public Health. That order repeals and replaces the April 20 VCPH order. Some aspects of the county order are more strict than the state order and apply to the entire county, including areas within city jurisdictions. The May 7 order is in effect until May 30. 

In terms of the low-risk businesses that are able to open, they “must establish, implement and enforce a site-specific prevention plan in accordance with the State of California COVID-19 Industry Guidance.” 

Before reopening, each business must register and file its preparedness plan through www.vcreopen.com. Businesses that have already been open have 10 days to submit their preparedness plan. Details online:  https://covid19.ca.gov/roadmap/

Businesses do not have to wait for the verification visit by the county, but must complete the following checklist. Businesses already open must complete it and register with the county by May 18. 

RULES FOR GOLF COURSES AND DRIVING RANGES | Social distancing required at all times Golf courses and driving ranges are allowed to open with the following restrictions: 1. Practice putting greens, pro-shops and food service at courses must remain closed.  2. Motorized carts are not allowed.  3. A group up to four — need not be from the same household — may play together but may not alternate players in and out with other groups.  4. 30 feet should be maintained between golfing groups.  5. Covered ball washers are required.  6. Flag pins must be removed and the cup must be inverted to eliminate high-frequency touch surfaces.  7. Balls at driving ranges must be sanitized between customers.

  • Business is one of the industries designated for reopening by the state and the county order. 

  • Performed a detailed risk assessment following the state guidelines. 

  • Completed and posted a written site specific COVID-19 prevention plan. 

  • Control and screening measures have been implemented at the business. 

  • Implemented disinfecting protocols at the business in accordance with California Department of Public Health Guidance. 

  • Employees have been trained on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 including how to screen themselves for symptoms. 

  • Always have an on-duty employee tasked with monitoring prevention plan compliance. 

  • Compliance hotline flyer is posted in a prominent location that is visible to the public and employees.

  • Attested to these and other requirements as listed on www.vcreopen.com

The county order includes other directives. All private testing facilities must report test results within eight hours. People over 75 years of age, or over 70 with “comorbidity” conditions, “are ordered to stay in their place of residence and must at all times follow Social Distancing Requirements to the greatest extent feasible.” Those individuals “may leave their places of residence only as necessary to seek medical care or exercise or nutrition or to perform essential work in furtherance of Healthcare Operations or Essential Governmental Functions or Services.”

The county “stay well at home” order is restated: “Persons may leave their place of residence only to perform one of the following essential activities:” 

  • To “engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (including pets).” That includes getting medically needed supplies or medication, seeing a healthcare professional, or getting supplies needed to work from home.  

  • To get food, pet supplies or any other “household consumer products” including cleaning products for themselves or any other person in order to “maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of places of residence.”

  • The full order includes guidelines for funerals and weddings (indoor and outdoor), restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people. 

  • Gatherings of any size, such as faith-based events, concerts, plays, political speeches and others, must take place outside, all attendees must be inside vehicles at least six feet apart from each other, and not leave the vehicle. People in each car must be from the same household. No restrooms facilities shall be provided and items may not be transferred between vehicles. 

  • Outdoor activities such as golfing, tennis, walking, hiking and bicycling are allowed.  

Rigoberto Vargas, director of Ventura County Public Health speaking to the Board of Supervisors on May 112, 2020.

At the Tuesday, May 12 meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Rigoberto Vargas, director of VCPH explained to the supervisors that the county is meeting four areas of the states “report card” but highlighted three areas where improvement is needed to move into the “accelerated stage two” section, which includes fully opened retail and some dine -in options for restaurants. 

He said the county is still seeing too many positive cases. “We can have no more than 85 cases in the last 14 days,” Vargas said, reporting the county had 148 new cases over the last two weeks.  The state also requires no COVID deaths in the past 14 days, and a minimum daily testing ratio of .31 per 1000 residents. That would involve the county testing 1300 people per day, double what the county is testing right now. 

“We are exhausting every effort to find more testing capacity at state, federal and private. OES is scouring the country and the world,” said Powers. “This is worldwide shortage. We are pushing and getting more tests. We are going to get there.” 

For questions or more information, businesses (part of this reopening phase or not) can contact the County of Ventura’s COVID compliance hotline  at 805-202-1805 or email covidcompliance@ventura.org. 

The full order is online at: https://s30623.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/VC-Public-Health-Officer-Order-May-7-2020.pdf