by Kimberly Rivers

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, announced that the stay-at-home order for the Southern California region, including Ventura County, is being extended. The decision was made in light of four factors: ICU capacity in the region, current seven-day average case rate and transmission rate, and current ICU admission rate.

The recent order was set to expire on Monday, Dec. 28. The new order is active as long as those factors indicate an ICU capacity under 15 percent. Ghaly said that is assessed and will be publicly reported daily.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom emphasized that the decision to extend any orders is based “on data,” noting that the state is in a “new phase, where we brace . . . prepare ourselves for what is inevitable based on the travel” that occurred over the holidays. More travel and transmission is expected to create a “surge on top of a surge.” 

Newsom said that the 10,000 to 15,000 new daily cases in the state are putting a tremendous strain on the healthcare system. To those who don’t think the pandemic directly affects them, he added, “God forbid” they should have acute care needs from a stroke or heart attack. “The impact of this virus is being felt on the entire healthcare system.” 

The extension means that businesses such as beauty salons, gyms, personal care services and onsite dining at restaurants must remain closed. 

Online Update: Thursday, Dec. 31: 

On Wednesday morning Newsom announced that a lab in Southern California had confirmed a case of the new strain of the coronavirus was detected. Later that day Ventura County Public Health director, Rigoberto Vargas, confirmed with the Ventura County Reporter that the case was not in the county. 

In a conversation on Wednesday, between Newsom and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with the National Institute of Health, Fauci emphasized that the new strain in the state is not surprising and the public should expect more mutations. (End of online update, Thurs. Dec. 31). 

County numbers

According to state data, as of Dec. 27, Ventura County has a 14-day average for daily new cases of 719.5, with 79 people being treated in county ICUs for COVID-19-related symptoms, leaving just 37 ICU beds available countywide. There are 358 people in area hospitals being treated for COVID-19-related symptoms. 

On Monday, Dec. 28, Ventura County reported 3,178 new cases (including three days over the weekend) and 11 additional deaths from COVID-19. Of those 11, two women had no other comorbidities that contributed to their deaths. 

Online update, after press deadline: On Tuesday, Dec. 29, the county reported 993 new cases in one day and 11 additional deaths of people ranging in age from 57 to 100, all with comorbidities. On Tuesday, 363 people were being treated in county area hospitals for symptoms related to COVID-19 and 66 people required care in local ICUs. 

County vaccine distribution

Ventura County has released detailed information about the groups that will receive the coronavirus vaccines first. Currently Phase 1a, set to last through late February, includes hospital staff, medical first responders, long-term care staff and residents and all other healthcare providers. Then in Phase 1b, beginning in early February to late March, critical infrastructure workers, law enforcement and firefighters, K-12 teachers and school staff and members of the public over 75 years old can receive the vaccine. After those two phases are complete, Phase 1c will include “older adults” not included in Phase 1b, all other critical infrastructure workers not already vaccinated and people with “high risk conditions.” 

After those phases are completed, all people over 16 years of age, who are not already in one of the groups from earlier phases, will have access to the vaccine. 

There is currently no stated, specific timeline for the phases past March for Phase 1b. 

Details at