by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Current COVID numbers

As of Sept. 21, 2020, Ventura County reported 265 new cases, with 3,405 new tests, for a total of 12,234 confirmed cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic in March. 176,359 people have been tested in Ventura County. 

11,249 people have recovered or never reported any symptoms after testing positive. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 883 people have been hospitalized in Ventura County as a result of symptoms from COVID-19, with 213 of those needing treatment in an ICU. 839 people have active cases and are under quarantine. 

As of Sept. 21, 146 people have died in Ventura County while testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Officials expect tier shifts next week

At the Sept. 22 meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, staff of the county’s Public Health Department showed how positivity rates of the virus continue to decline, positioning the county to move on the state’s tiered rating system from purple (the most restrictive) to red. 

Such a move would allow restaurants to open indoor dining at 25 percent capacity and school campuses to open. But the county is not there yet. 

“We need to meet the new metric for two weeks” before shifting to lower restrictions, said Rigoberto Vargas, director of Ventura County Public Health. He emphasized that once in a lower level tier, the county would have to maintain numbers for three consecutive weeks to remain.  

Only one metric is holding up the county from dropping a tier: the seven day average case rate per 100,000 people. The rate reported on Sept. 22 was 7.4  percent and it needs to be 7 percent. “Last week [the county was] just below 8.5,” so this is a significant improvement, Vargas said. 

Officials emphasized the work being done to lobby the state for a “potential adjustment” for Ventura County since the other metrics being tracked are being met or better than the state’s requirement. 

The county currently has a 3.8 percent rate for those testing positive, well below the states requirement of 8 percent. Ventura County is exceeding all other metrics: Average daily tests is 221; state goal is 150. The percentage of ICU beds available without surge capacity activated is 42 percent; the state requires 20 percent. Eighty-seven percent of ventilators are available in the county, well above the state’s threshold of 25 percent. Ventura County has also dropped the number of average hospitalizations, seeing a 4 percent decrease. 

Officials emphasized strong business compliance with protective procedures as evidenced by the low number of businesses cited by a state “strike” team that visited the county, without notifying county officials. County CEO Mike Powers said that the state team reported they visited 3,100 businesses and only issued three citations for noncompliance. 

Homeless shelter requirements

Ventura County Public Health has issued new rules for all people entering homeless shelters and H2A housing facilities. All those entering these location must be checked daily for symptoms and have their temperature taken. Those with elevated temperature or other associated symptoms must be isolated and notify the operator of the facility. 

Operators of these facilities must notify Public Health of any lab-confirmed coronavirus infection. 

Positive cases in jails blamed

According to county officials, including Supervisor Linda Parks, the approach used by the state to calculate positivity rates in jailed populations is affecting the county’s ability to move to the next tier. 

Sept. 6-12, there were 16 reported cases in the Ventura County Jail. The state is including that in the county numbers even though it is unclear if all of those individuals are actually residents of Ventura County. 

According to Parks, the state argues that the cases in the jailed population should be counted because if released those people would be in the county. But Parks pointed out that they may not have the information on where those people truly live. 

The county continues to press the state to change this approach regarding cases in the jailed population. 

County clarifying rules in various sectors

Last week the county issued statements that clarify various rules and guidelines for certain sectors. 

Art Classes: “Unaccredited” art education programs “that perform after school youth and adult programs can operate under the Day Camps and cohorts guidance,” so long as the business running the sessions is registered at www.vcreopens.com

Art Schools: Post-secondary art schools are still to remain closed for “indoor lectures and student gatherings.” Some indoor courses like “labs and studio arts” may take place, so long as state issued guidance for higher education institutions is followed. These schools must also register with the county as an educational service. 

Golfcart sharing: If two people not from the same household are playing golf, they can share a golf cart provided a partition is used in the cart.

Massage: Massage treatments that have been ordered for a patient by a doctor or chiropractor can take place indoors as an “essential” healthcare service and is not considered “under personal services.” Non-medical massage may only take place outdoors while the county remains in the purple tier, and must also be approved by the county or city. 

Skin care: Non-medical skin care services are only allowed outside with some modification. Masks must be worn at all times. See state guidelines. 

Live Music in Restaurants: Live music is allowed outdoors when it does “not cause people to gather” and is for “the benefit of the business patrons who are already seated.” Solo performances are allowed and duets with performers from the same household are allowed to perform outdoors at restaurants, bars or wineries. The performance stage must be at least 20 feet from viewers, and the music must not be so loud “to the point where people have to lean in to be heard” while talking. 

Door to Door campaigning or canvassing: Census workers and people seeking signatures on ballot initiatives or related items and those campaigning for elected office as well as their campaign workers “may engage with residents door to door, but must wear a mask,” should stay six feet away from residents when possible and should disinfect equipment (pens, clipboard etc.) after each use. 

Other solicitors, such as for profit businesses, may leave materials such as door hangers, but cannot ring the doorbell or knock on the door “or otherwise attempt to engage with residents.” 

For details visit: www.venturacountyrecovers.org