Pictured: Rob McCoy, pastor at Godspeak Calvary Church in Thousand Oaks attends a protest in Ventura demanding the reopening of California, organized by We Have Rights Corporation on May 1, 2020. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com  

Church violates restraining order, county warns of COVID-19 outbreak

On Sunday, Aug. 9, Rob McCoy, pastor at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, violated a temporary restraining order issued by Hon. Matthew P. Guasco on Friday, Aug. 7, as requested by Ventura County and Dr. Robert Levin, health officer with Ventura County Public Health. 

McCoy violated the order by holding in-person, indoor church services, which violates active public health orders issued to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 

In a declaration submitted to the court by Levin, he says he viewed photographs showing the church full; it is believed to hold 200 people. “Based on those images and that information, in my opinion, it is only a matter of time — if it hasn’t already happened — before there is a significant outbreak of COVID-l9 cases among the attendees.”

The restraining order prohibits all “agents, employees, representatives, members and volunteers and all persons acting . . . in concert with or for them, from conducting, participating in, or attending any indoor worship services at the property or any other place within Ventura County.” 

According to signed declarations submitted to the court, the county received numerous complaints from residents in the area around the church regarding the services, and McCoy informed county officials that he intended to continue to hold services in violation of the existing public health orders. 

Current orders require events and gatherings, including church services, to be conducted outdoors and in compliance with state guidelines including social distancing and face coverings. The order remains in effect until a court hearing at 10 a.m. on Aug. 31. 

Prior to filing for the order, on Aug. 6 in a special meeting, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted in a split vote to give county counsel the authority to take such actions against individuals and businesses in the county who are violating existing and active public health orders. Supervisors Kelly Long (Dist-3) and Bob Huber (Dist-2) voted against so authorizing county counsel. 

In April, McCoy resigned from his elected position as a Thousand Oaks City Councilmember because he planned to hold in-person services for Palm Sunday in violation of orders at that time. 

County continues to see increases in COVID

On Monday, Aug. 10, the county reported 488 new positive cases from testing over the weekend, with 53.3 percent of those being tested prior to Aug. 3. 7,731 new people were tested, and three new deaths associated with COVID-19 were reported for a total number of 93 deaths in the county. 21 people are currently being treated in intensive care units in various Ventura County hospitals. There are 8,634 total cases with 127,649 people having been tested.

Top state health official resigns

Over the weekend Gov. Newsom accepted the resignation of Dr. Sonia Angell, director of California Department of Public Health, following the agency reporting the discovery of discrepancies in reporting of cases of coronavirus across the state. The reporting errors are likely to have affected local reporting numbers, including those in Ventura County, according to a county spokesperson, which may have led to cases being underreported.

School waivers possible later this month

On Aug. 7, Ventura County Public Health issued a statement in response to state guidance that reiterated no on-campus classes are permitted at schools, although districts can work with childcare providers to offer childcare, including homework assistance and other tutoring on school campuses. 

These directives apply to all public and private schools. 

Dr. Robert Levin M.D., health officer with Ventura County Public Health, stated, “Due to our status with COVID-19 infections and our place on the state’s monitoring list, we are not currently approving waiver applications” that would allow school districts to offer on-campus classes. He said VCPH will reexamine the county’s status in two weeks, “or when we see a significant improvement in our COVID numbers.” 

He emphasized the high rates of new cases per 100,000 in population, and the fact that the county’s test positive rate is currently over eight percent as reasons why the county is not considering waivers for school districts at this time. 

“Our COVID+ hospitalization rate is also unacceptably high,” said Levin.  But in an effort to ensure schools are prepared in the event there is an improvement in the county, VCPH encourages schools to review the state guidance “to prepare for this possible option.” Requirements for receiving a waiver include a reopening plan published online, and that the district consult with parents, community organizations as well as teachers and employee unions. The county also reiterated that waiver applications will only apply to transition kindergarten through sixth grade and VCPH points to “current best available scientific evidence” that shows “COVID-related risks in schools serving elementary age students (TK-6) are lower than and different from the risks to staff and to students serving older students.” 

Waiver applications should be submitted at least two weeks before the planned reopening date, and include how the schools will meet safety requirements such as social distancing, face covering requirements, staff training and family education, as well as staff testing. 

Information supporting the guidance and requirements for schools to reopen are online at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Schools-FAQ.aspx

Childcare is allowed on school campuses

Childcare programs are allowed per state and county guidance. These programs must follow state guidance and it is allowed for a student to receive remote, distance learning whether that student is at home or in a childcare setting being operated in alignment with state guidance. 

In addition to licensed childcare providers, schools in Ventura County are allowed to offer childcare on school campuses. 

According to the Aug. 7 statement from VCPH, “schools can have daycare providers, school staff and/or teachers providing the childcare, homework assistance and tutoring for the distance learning.” Those programs must have consulted with the county about their safety protocols for supporting distance learning in the child care setting.