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Ventura County Stay Well at Home Order to be extended to May 15

4 14 HANDS

Screenshot of Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin of Ojai, at the April 14 meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

 

 

By Marianne Ratcliff, Ojai Valley News editor

Ventura County residents will remain under a county Stay Well at Home Order at least through May 15, according to Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin.

He informed the county Board of Supervisors at its April 14 meeting that he is drafting a new order that will encompass the previous orders and contain some modifications he is working on. The previous orders will expire April 19.

To hear Levin’s remarks on the videotape of the meeting, visit: https://ventura.granicus.com/player/clip/5410?view_id=67. (His comments start at the 27-minute time stamp of the video and continue to the 1:04 time stamp.)

He said the county is reviewing what an “exit strategy” looks like — “how we ease out of the situation we find ourselves in.”

At a press briefing a few hours later, Gov. Gavin Newsom talked about the state plan to lift state-issued stay-at-home orders. He said, “The state vision will be realized at the local level.” He added that before restrictions are loosened, the state is working toward meeting goals he outlined.

 

Ventura County residents making a difference

Levin said he is heartened that his earlier prediction that up to 1,000 Ventura County residents might die from COVID-19 looks unlikely to occur. He said that, today, the prediction is significantly lower at about 250. He said that “has a lot to do with how hard everyone in our community has worked at quarantining and maintaining social distance.”

 

 

 

 

While a surge of COVID-19 cases has been anticipated to occur next week, Levin said it is possible a surge might be avoided in Ventura County, although it is prudent to prepare for the worst.

“Our efforts have been a tremendous investment,” Levin said. “We'll see how well they pay off next week.”

Dr. John Fankhauser, head of Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital, reported at the meeting that in-patient admissions are down approximately 25 percent and that Emergency Room visits are down 50 percent from normal at the two hospitals.

Levin recommended that people who are dealing with “stir-craziness” exercise.

 

'Where is the finish line?'

Levin said everyone wants to know: “Where is the finish line?” When do people get “back to the life we had before all this began?”

He said it could be “months off.”

“It could be 10 months off, it could be 12 months off,” he said, but noted there are steps along the way.

As to what might move the goal line, he said antibody tests could help determine how many people might be immune to COVID-19. He said there is a possibility that if the coronavirus was circulating earlier than first thought, it is a possibility “some of us may already have antibodies to this.”

He added that needs to be studied. 

The hope is a medicine might be discovered to treat COVID-19 or provide protection against it.

 

Strategic plan to reopen

A “strategic plan to reopen” is starting to take place, Levin said. The “first phase” is containment, which includes identifying the cases of COVID-19 and quarantining them.

That worked all right at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ventura County, he said, but it worked less well when there was community transmission. He said that even after hiring more nurses, contact tracing became more difficult as the number of affected people expanded. That is when the county moved to the “mitigation phase,” he explained, with contact tracing prioritized for people in high-risk professions, such as healthcare workers.

Those who tested positive and were in low-risk positions were told to inform their contacts themselves.

He explained that phase one resulted in the closing of schools, shopping centers, and mass gatherings. 

To prepare for phase two, he said there should be “same-day, point-of-care testing” that is widespread and available in clinics for 2,000 people a week in Ventura County.

He said that is a tall order, considering that, to date, in Ventura County, the total number of people tested is just shy of 6,000.

He said that with more testing, the county may be able, ideally, to return to a containment strategy that will help to bring down the number of  COVID-19 cases.

With more testing, Levin said it would be possible to test people who have been in close contact with those diagnosed with COVID-19 and have them quarantine.

He said that less-restrictive social distancing could lead to more COVID-19 cases, but that technological tools could assist in contact tracing, such as using cell phones to determine who might have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Fever monitors could also help determine if there are clusters of people with fevers in a community, he said.

He said the goal is to lift physical distancing carefully, with increased surveillance and testing, to allow the majority of businesses and schools to reopen.

 

Goals

Levin said he would like to see:

— an antibody study.

— wider surveillance of cases.

— adequate communicable disease staff.

— a priority list of who will receive a COVID-19 vaccine first when one becomes available.

Supervisor Steve Bennett said that when businesses do reopen, business people will have a real interest in maintaining physical distancing in their stores so there is not a resurgence of COVID-19 that would require businesses to close again.

Bennett asked Levin if it is possible for the revised Stay Well at Home Order to allow bike sales, so that more people can ride bikes, with appropriate social distancing.

Bennett also said he hoped Levin would consider allowing “drive-in” church services, so that people could attend church in their vehicles. For many, he said, “their church community is their family.”

Levin said the social-distancing measures that have worked for essential businesses, under his order, can also work for nonessential businesses when they are able to reopen.

“When we talk about liberalizing things in the next order, those are the types of things we are looking at doing,” he said.

Levin said that while the city of Ojai has a city order that all customers and employees of city businesses wear face coverings, he has not ordered that countywide as he is still weighing the pros and cons that he will share publicly soon.

Supervisor Kelly Long said that while supervisors are getting many comments from the public about the stay-at-home orders, the county Public Health officer is the one authorized to determine what they include.

For up-to-date Ventura County COVID-19 information, visit www.vcemergency.com.

 

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