Pictured: Gov. Gavin Newsom in press conference on Monday, Nov. 16. Screenshot from live video feed. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

During a Monday, Nov. 16, press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed what Ventura County officials anticipated last week. Forty counties, including Ventura County, will revert back to the most restrictive “purple tier” in California’s four-tiered plan for managing the pandemic in the state. 

41 counties in California are now in the most restrictive purple tier, indicating widespread transmission is occurring in those counties. Sourced from: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/

The change goes into effect on Tuesday, Nov. 17. 

Saying that the change is an “emergency brake,” Newsom cited the 51.3 percent increase in positive testing rates statewide and said it is the “fastest increase California has seen” so far during the pandemic. He compared the current rate to the 39.2 percent that was seen in June. 

In order to advance to the less restrictive tier, the county must be in the current tier for at least three weeks and then must also meet criteria for the next tier for two weeks before actually advancing to that tier. 

“To advance forward into the red tier, Ventura County needs to have lower daily case rates. The only way to do that is to do what we know works,” said  Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County Health Officer. “We all have a part in this, and we must be committed to social distancing measures in public spaces (6 ft. apart, wear face coverings, wash hands, etc.) and to avoid gathering with non-household members. Also, it helps everyone and the county overall to get tested whenever you have any symptom of illness that does not have another explanation, or you think you may have been exposed to COVID.”

The shift to a more restrictive tier is happening sooner than Ventura County officials had anticipated and means that several types of businesses (restaurants, gyms and bars) that had benefited from recently loosened restrictions must now cease certain aspects of their operations. 

Restaurants in Ventura County must fully close their dining rooms again, only offering outdoor dining or takeout/delivery options. Bars, wineries, breweries and distilleries may not serve any beverages unless they also offer food sales.

Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship are again prohibited from having indoor services. As of Monday, Nov. 16, only outdoor services, with certain modifications, are allowed. 

Gyms and fitness centers must also cease indoor activities and shift all exercise activities to outdoors. 

The change also affects school districts. If schools are already opened — as many in Ventura County are — they may remain open. Any schools planning to reopen must now wait until the county has been in the red (less restrictive than purple) tier for 14 days.  

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, emphasized the importance of wearing a mask whenever people are in public and not gathering with people outside of their household. He emphasized that gathering indoors presents “the highest risk.” 

Ghaly also announced guidance for out-of-state travel, asking that anyone coming into the state to visit or returning from visiting family over the upcoming holiday quarantine themselves for 14 days. He reiterated that it is not a ban, or even a requirement, but that it is meant to “discourage nonessential” out-of-state travel. 

Newsom reported that the state has been working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and has been in conversation with the two pharmaceutical companies — Pfizer and Moderna — working on a coronavirus vaccine, saying the state was “socializing” the vaccination plans in an effort to ensure that when an effective and safe vaccine is available that California can ensure a “safe and equitable distribution” of the vaccine, with those “most in need” being prioritized. 

At 2:48 p.m. on Monday, Ventura County issued a statement regarding the new restrictions. County public health officials do have the option of being more restrictive than state requirements, but in no cases can counties be less restrictive. 

According to Ventura County Public Health, the following requirements are in effect as of Tuesday, Nov. 17: 

OUTDOOR operations only until further notice along with mitigation measures (social distancing, face covering, sanitization) in the following sectors:

  • Cardrooms, satellite wagering
  • Family entertainment centers (e.g. bowling alleys, miniature golf, batting cages, kart racing, and arcades)
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Movie theaters
  • Museums, zoos, aquariums
  • Places of worship 
  • Playgrounds and recreational facilities
  • Restaurants 
  • Wineries

Bars, pubs, breweries and brewpubs may have outdoor operations if they provide “sit-down, outdoor meals.” Tents, canopies and other shelters with one or no sides are allowed.  

INDOOR operations only with mitigation measures (social distancing, face covering, sanitization) and modifications (as noted) in the following sectors: 

  • All retail ​(maximum 25 percent capacity)
  • Critical infrastructure 
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Libraries (maximum 25 percent capacity)
  • Nail salons and electrolysis operations
  • Personal care services (e.g. body waxing, estheticians, tattoo, massage)
  • Professional sports (without live audiences)
  • Shopping centers (e.g. malls, destination centers, swap meets, excluding food courts and common areas) (maximum 25 percent capacity)

Detailed information about restrictions in all business sectors is online at: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/