Pictured: Dr. Robert Levin, health officer with Ventura County Public Health. Photo by Kimberly Rivers. 

by Kimberly Rivers

On Monday, July 19, Ventura County Public Health, citing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, issued a statement “strongly” recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when indoors “in public places” in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

“We are seeing a significant growth in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in our county,” said Rigoberto Vargas, director of Ventura County Public Health (VCPH). He cited local data recording 504 cases of the virus since July 12 along with 41 hospitalizations and nine people requiring care in the ICU. An increase in the daily case rate is also worrisome, he said, and is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated “to help protect themselves and loved ones. This will also help reverse this concerning trend of increasing cases since June 15.” 

Earlier this month, Dr. Robert Levin, health officer with VCPH, said he’d “like to see more people get vaccinated. We’re not all protected until all of us who can be vaccinated are vaccinated.” 

Levin said that all who are hospitalized or die due to COVID are tested using whole genome sequencing to track variants. Of those tested as of July 6, 10 people who had been hospitalized had the Delta variant, but Levin said none of them died. 

“For the most part this is a surge of cases among our unvaccinated and it is preventable,” said Levin. “While vaccines remain our best tool against COVID-19, masking in indoor and crowded outdoor settings will help us curb the spread of this latest wave of infection. Ventura County data have recently shown that unvaccinated people are 22 times more likely to become infected and hospitalized than vaccinated residents. Several of our hospitalized people have been vaccinated and that is several too many.” 

Having everyone, including those fully vaccinated, wear masks in public spaces “serves as an extra precautionary measure for those who are fully vaccinated and will further limit spread of the Delta variant in the community at large,” said the VCPH statement issued Monday.

“The Delta variant is spreading quickly in our state. All community members should take action to protect themselves and others against this potentially deadly virus,” said Levin. He emphasized that the vaccines are “safe, effective, free and widely available to everyone 12 and older.” 

Getting fully vaccinated protects against serious illness if exposed to the virus or if an infection occurs. Vaccinated individuals can transmit the virus, making mask-wearing among those fully vaccinated a way to reduce transmission rates.

The recommendation applies to indoor settings including grocery or retail stores, theaters and family entertainment centers. 

All employees, in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements, are encouraged to wear a mask indoors when vaccination status is not confirmed for all co-workers who share workspaces. 

 More information is online at www.vcrecovers.org.  

 COVID-19 vaccines are available at multiple locations throughout the County of Ventura for all community members 12 or older. Information about locations can be found at www.myturn.ca.gov or by calling 833-422-4255.