News from around the Ojai Valley

Ojai City Council declared local emergency Friday, March 13

OJAI COUNCILOjai City Council unanimously ratified the city manager's declaration of a city emergency as a result of COVID-19 at its emergency meeting on Friday, March 13.

 The meeting was broadcast live on the city of Ojai’s website: 


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That declaration came one day after the county of Ventura declared a county emergency and the Ojai Unified School District announced it would be closing its schools from March 16 to 20.

As the Ojai City Council met Friday, President Trump announced a national emergency.

The council also affirmed City Manager James Vega’s authority, as Ojai's director of emergency services, to requisition money and services to protect the city, regardless of the $25,000 standard limit.

The council reminded residents to go to the county website for up-to-date Ventura County information on COVID-19.Mayor Johnny Johnston stated he hoped it would be the last meeting in which council members were seated less than 6 feet apart — the distance public health officials are recommending people keep between each other to help prevent COVID-19 spread.

“This is a time for a sense of urgency, not panic, particularly in our area,” Johnston said. “So, we want to take measured steps and stay in touch with those who know what they are talking about, to the degree they know what they are talking about…. The bad news is that we still do not have adequate testing going on throughout the country… The hospital does have the ability to test, but, unfortunately, the time it takes to test and to diagnose means there’s going to be a lag period, so all of us have to do our part in flattening what they call the curve by social distancing and washing hands, and the things everybody knows about.”

Councilman Ryan Blatz said, “We are not declaring emergency because any of the conditions in the city of Ojai have changed.” As of Friday, no one in the Ojai Valley had tested positive for COVID-19, he said. The emergency declaration, he explained, is “a preventive measure, not a reactionary measure to anything that is happening.”

 The Ojai Tennis Tournament in question

With regard to The Ojai Tennis Tournament scheduled in late April, Vega said the tournament organizers will meet Tuesday and the Ojai City Council was planning to wait until they met to prepare a policy.

Blatz expressed concern about bringing in so many young visiting athletes to a city with a sizable population of older residents.

On Sunday, March 15, two days after the City Council met, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance that events of more than 50 people throughout the United States be postponed or canceled for at least eight weeks, not including schools or businesses.

Vega said he has been speaking multiple times a day with Public Health officials and other city managers about the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilman Randy Haney said the message Ojai residents need to hear is: “We are preparing, we are communicating and we are collaborating. We are acting on their behalf in everything we do,” working with the Police Department, the Fire Department, the hospital, "anything and everything that affects this community.”

OUSD update on school closures March 16-20

Calling in to report on Ojai Unified School District's closure of schools from March 16 to 20, Superintendent Tiffany Morse told the council that OUSD plans to have student care teams at each school site starting Tuesday, March 17, which will provide to students breakfast and brown-bag lunch for pick-up, and as many computers, books and hot spots as are available, and mental-health counseling, if needed. On March 15, the superintendent announced those resources will be available on every OUSD campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting Tuesday, March 17. (Read her March 15 announcement at . The link also includes a form for families to respond in English and Spanish to what needs they have for food or other services.)

City needs

Councilman William Weirick spoke about the possibility of having drive-through testing capability for COVID-19, which Vega said will be addressed in the coming days.

Councilwoman Suza Francina said now is an especially important time for people to be building their health and suggested people eat Pixie oranges that are being harvested now in the Ojai Valley. 

Trevor Quirk, Upper Ojai resident and write-in candidate for county supervisor, asked during public comment about services the city might be able to provide to residents of lesser means, such as food and child care. 

Johnston said the city of Ojai is just one of many government agencies that will be offering services and assistance, noting that the City Council represents just the city of Ojai and not the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley that fall under the county of Ventura’s government jurisdiction.

“No one need go hungry,” Francina said, referencing community resources such as Help of Ojai that can help provide assistance and food to those in need.

Haney said: “We are letting the community know we are with them 100 percent. We are going to move as fast as we can.”

Concerns about homeless

Ojai Valley News owner Bob Daddi said during public comment that he is concerned that the homeless in the city will not be able to get the help they need. “If you take a look at the most vulnerable people, it’s going to be them,” he said, recommending that there be outreach to assist them, perhaps through county social services. “I really think you folks need to make a special effort for them,” he concluded.

Blatz said that it is likely the city and county will coordinate to address the needs of the homeless.

Francina suggested one important step is to keep the public restrooms “open and clean” and provide written reminders to the public about the importance of hand washing. 

The California Department of Transportation had the same idea as it is using several of its electronic signs throughout the state to remind people of ways to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The council adjourned after about 37 minutes and issued notices on Friday, March 13, and Sunday, March 15 about the steps the city is taking during this emergency.


City of Ojai March 15 press relase

The notice issued the evening of Sunday, March 15, reads:


“Ojai residents,

“In response to coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for all bars, wineries, nightclubs and brewpubs to close in California. He also urged seniors and people with chronic conditions to isolate themselves at home to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“Governor Newsom also stated that measures should also be taken to reduce current occupancy in restaurants by half to keep people farther away from each other. Newsom unveiled the new measures at a press conference Sunday, March 15.
“City officials are reviewing the measures, and expect to announce potential implementation within 24 hours.
“Note that there is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as Novel Coronavirus:
•         Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
•         Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
•         Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
•         Avoid close contact with people who are sick and practice social distancing.
•         Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
•         Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
“As a reminder, the City of Ojai issued a declaration of a local emergency in response to COVID 19 (coronavirus). This should not cause undue concern. It is necessary for the City to take this step in order to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, through social distancing, allows the City to react quickly if needed, and makes the City eligible for emergency funding from the State and Federal government.
“Please be aware of misinformation and use official resources for news.
" or   are official locations for the latest local information. Sign up for VCAlert for the latest updates. State updates are available from the Department of Public Health:
“Please continue to use social distancing measures and proper hand-washing, at work and at home.
“Measures Implemented: The City has made restrooms available and clean 24 hours a day for vulnerable populations. The City has also ordered hand sanitizers and hand wash stations and will make those available as soon as possible. The City has been in close contact with the County, other Ventura County Cities, and key community partners to coordinate resources and identify needs.
“City Services: City Hall and Offices will remain open during regular business hours. To help prevent spread, we encourage any person seeking City services to use email, online, or telephone methods to communicate their need for City services. As part of this, the City will accept submissions of any applications or petitions by mail or email, and appropriate staff will follow up to confirm completeness, make arrangements for payment of required fees, and to confirm next steps and requirements as appropriate.
“Trolley Services continue to operate.
“Facilities: In line with the California Governor’s recommendations, and to prevent potential spread, the City will be closing the Boyd (Recreation) Center and the Libbey Bowl for the time being, to discourage gatherings of over 250 people. The City is also suspending recreation programming.
“Events: All non-essential City sponsored events are canceled or postponed.
City Meetings: Non-critical city meetings are canceled through March 31. City Council meetings will continue, with limited seating to ensure social distancing, and with remote viewing and email comments available.
“Residents are encouraged to submit their comments via email before 3 p.m. to the Deputy City Clerk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and they will be provided to the Council. 
“Other Board and Commission meetings are suspended through March 31.
“Police and Emergency Services: Police services continue uninterrupted. Police officers are prepared to respond as needed.”


Online information sites on COVID-19: 


— To view the Friday, March 15, Covid-19 update from the Ojai Unified School District, visit:

 — To view the Ventura County Office of Education corona virus website, visit:


— To view the California Department of Education coronavirus website, visit:

— To view the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for Covid-19 updates, visit: 


— To view the CDC website on ways to protect oneself and others from getting Covid-19, visit:


— To view latest information on Covid-19 in California, visit California Department of Public Health:


To view medical updates on the WebMD website, visit: 



To view a list of countries with COVID-19 travel advisories, visit:

— To view guidance from the CDC to Ventura County Office of Education, to be disseminated to local school districts, visit:



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