May 5: Ventura County supervisors hear updates on reopening, contact tracing, restaurant meal program and more


Screenshot of Michelle Sayre, RN, MBA, Ph.D., chief nursing officer, Ventura County Medical Center, as she gives presentation to Ventura County Board of Supervisors for National Nurses Appreciation Week on the important work of nurses at all times and especially during the pandemic.


This report is a brief rundown of presentations to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors at its May 5 meeting as those presentations occurred.

To view the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, May 5, that started at 8:30 a.m., visit


Ventura County supervisors honor nurses during National Nurses Appreciation Week with presentation and video.


 County CEO Mike Powers:

COVID-19 "is a health and economic crisis." 577 people in our community have tested positive at some point, and 402 have recovered. That is positive direction.

Community did great with active recreation at the beaches over the weekend, doing so safely, separating and not gathering. Very appreciative of everyone working together and appreciate governor's support.

Reorganize presentation today around the "road to reopening" the economy. Governor talked May 4 about Phase 2, allowing some retail outlets to open for curbside pickup, and to open manufacturing, supply and distribution chains for those, beginning this Friday.

State order that goes into effect Friday will include opening on Friday for cubside pick-up only of bookstores, sporting goods stores, florists, clothing stores, toy stores. Further guidance from the state will come out Thursday.

Will align Ventura County order with the state's order.

The governor is moving away from categorizig businesses as essential / nonessential, changing to categorizing businesses as low-risk to high-risk.

Validation system needs to be in place, working with Resource Management Agency Director Kimberly Prillhart. Powers said that for business offices to reopen, there would be validation criteria, but the county is waiting on state guidance on that Thursday.

Found business community wants to comply and have great ideas on how to implement physically distancing in their businesses.

Governor's roadmap to reopening is in four stages.

We are moving into Phase 2.

He provided some PowerPoint slides:

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Supervisor Steve Bennett said there will be challenges to the public in how the retail curbside pick-up is implemented, such as people shopping inside a store for essential items, such as food, but possibly having to purchase other nonessential retail items outside the store.

Bennett said he is also getting several requests for pet grooming.

Powers said the county is exploring that.

The county cannot be more liberal than the state in reopening.

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State has a reopening report card, based on:

— Adequate personal protective equipment.

— Testing capacity increasing. So far, Ventura County has been able to do 1,500 tests a week and is ramping up to more than 4,000 a week.

— Contact tracing.

— Protecting vulnerable populations such as seniors, medically fragile, homeless.

 Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas

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 Moving toward a phased reopening of the economy.

 8 new positive COVID-19 cases in Ventura County from the day before.

 754 tests given from last Friday to May 5.

County working on matrix for businesses reopening, classifying businesses in low-, medium- and high-risk categories that can be addressed by actions that could change high-risk to low- or medium-risk.

Supervisor Bob Huber:

Need to review policy of roping off areas of stores and consider people who do not have credit cards to purchase some items online. That Ventura County

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policy is driving people to LA, which poses a higher risk of people contracting COVID-19.


Victoria Jump, Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA) director

On April 24, governor introduced Great Plates— a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of Emergency Services, and local partners to allow three meals a day to be provided through area restaurants for older adults who qualify. VCAAA and Office of Emergency Services Director Patrick Maynard launched the program April 27. 352

5 5 supes6jpgolder adults qualified.

Limited time for restaurants if they still want to participate. Ventura County is limiting participation in program to 50 restaurants. Many restaurateurs are in the process of applying. County is very specific for insurance requirements, making county of Ventura "additional insured" and ensuring participating restaurants are current with their Environmental Health permits. Don't want too huge a number of restaurants because there is not a huge demand. The county is making sure there are restaurants in every community and that the restaurants serve that community. Make5 5 supes8  sure a couple of restaurants in every city are participating.

Program extended to continue to June 10, at least.

7,392 meals served since Great Plates launched April 27.

 777 served in the program now. It continues to grow. Ventura County is the first county in the state to report data in the state. Other counties are still talking about how to set this up. We are launched and the service is available in every city. Go to  the VCAAA website, or call 211 to sign up to receive5 5 supes9  the meals or to be a participating restaurant. People who receive Cal-Fresh are not eligible for Great Plates program, but there are other programs available to help those hungry and in need.

VCAAA's food and supply delivery program is for eligible people age 60 and above and is serving 12,000 people.  

It has served a total of more than 277,116 meals as of last Friday.

Steady increase of participants.

5 5 supes10Encourage people to fill out the application and there are several options for programs for people in need.

Supervisor Bennett:

Remarkable effort on our staff to make this happen. All who did it deserve a lot of thanks for this really special effort

CEO Powers:

More than 300 vulnerable homeless people are housed.

More testing is now available in Ventura County.


Dr. Robert Levin, chief medical officer for Ventura County:

Begin by trying to remember back to 10 weeks ago. We were looking at this wave that was coming at us. Our county has done an amazing job of protecting us from that wave.

It is important to know what has been prevented by the county's actions.

In the same way, 10 weeks ago, deaths in our county were predicted to be 1,000.

"I thought more realistically we would see 250 deaths."

As of today, we have 19 deaths. If we go about this properly with our opening up over the coming weeks and months, I am hopeful that over the next 4 or 6 months, there could be fewer deaths than 19 with contact tracing. Treatment, vaccines and possible fall resurgence are all unknowns.

We see 20 or 30 deaths a year in Ventura County from flu. We have 19 COVID-19 deaths thus far in Ventura County because of how seriously county residents have taken this whole threat. I can't thank you enough for your efforts. 

 As for the county hospitalization rate, that is staying steady. It is coming down. On March 23, Ventura County hit a peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations and COVID-19 hospitalizatons have been level for several weeks now.

We are also looking at our doubling time — the time it takes to double cases. The longer the doubling time, the better.

The current doubling time in Ventura County is 45 days. The doubling rate earlier had been 3.6 days.


Regarding long-term-care facilities:

We do not want anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 to be in any of our Ventura County 400 long-term-care facilities while they are contagious.

We have developed a program that any residents of long-term-care facilities who are COVID-19 positive will go into a hospital in Ventura County for the protection of others in that facility.

Tremendous change of mentality for all the hospitals in our county that have welcomed this program. Very heartwarming to see.

Some of the long-term-care facility residents taken to the hospital are fine, but are shedding the virus. Some are sick. Levin said he is not aware of any other county in the state that is hospitalizing every COVID-19-positive person who resides in a long-term-care facility.


Three Ventura County long-term-care facilities have had COVID-19 cases. The majority of those cases happen to be long-term-care-facility employees. The cases are, not surprisingly, brought in by employees who interact with the rest of the world, since residents are in lockdown. All employees who tested positive were sent home and some were already home.

Standard was that if there were two cases of COVID in a facility, everyone in the facility would be tested. It is now one case will prompt everyone in the facility to be tested, according to Barry Zimmerman of the Ventura County Health Care Agency.


2 residents of Ventura County long-term-care facilities are hospitalized and will soon go back to their long-term-care facility after they are no longer contagious.

Levin said, "I welcome this opening up" on Friday. We have all been concerned at the county level at doing everything we possibly can to support business opening up. The hope is that it will lead to the restoration of the economy, "not in days, but weeks and months."


Contact tracing. What does it mean?

When someones tests positive for COVID-19, we ask them about all the people they have been in contact with. Those contacts are then contacted for possible isolation and quarantine.

The intial estimate was that there would be 10 or more contacts for every COVID-19 case. The reality, because of social distancing, is that there are now only two, three or four contacts for every COVID-19 case, "which makes our job easier."

A person who tests positive needs to be isolated in their home, unless they are sick enough to require hospitalization.

Those contacts of COVID-19-positive people will now be tested  for symptoms — that is new. That contact will then be quarantined and checked on every day by Public Health.

If that "contact" tests positive, they are then a "case" and not just a "contact."

The county then determines if the person needs housing, food or medication and then we meet their needs.

Why is it important? By ensuring that those who have COVID-19 but are not symptomatic go into quarantine, we protect others.

Emphasis on all of this is that we protect others.

Attention to detail will reduce the number, will tamp the number of COVID-19 cases way down in our community. Once this program is in place, the chance of running into someone positive will go way, way down

We will avoid a hospital surge and reduce the chance of infection.

When restaurants reopen, with excellent contact tracing, we can be reassured it will be extemely unlikely that anyone dining or working  in restaurants will have COVID-19.

Contact tracing is a milestone that the county must reach, and I believe has reached, to move from the governor's Phase 1 to Phase 2.

For near-perfect contact tracing and follow-up, we need 10,000 contact tracers statewide. We have 10 new contact tracers in Ventura County who began training May 4.

Ventura County will bring on 40 to 50 or maybe more people to do contact tracing. 

The county does not anticipate having to go out of Ventura County to find enough staff for the additional contact tracing.

The model is to have 10 contact tracers working with one supervising nurse, and that allows for scaleability.

The state offers a virtual training academy for contact tracing. Most counties' contact-tracing employees will participate in high-quality, free training. Several counties will pilot the program and Ventura County is in the running to be one of them and is waiting to hear back.

The state will have one company to provide a contact-tracing management platform. A separate company will provide data management. Those companies will be announced later on May 5.


Shawn Atin, director of county Human Resources

All county government employees are disaster service employees. Most of contact tracing work is telework. Ten county Library Services workers have been reassigned to Public Health for contact tracing. Starting next Monday, we will have 50 other county employees reassigned to Public Health. This number could rise geometrically, resulting in much greater reach into the county employee pool.

Also looking for infrastructure to recruit members of the public as the need arises.

The county of Ventura has hired five new Public Health nurses.


Barry Zimmerman with Ventura County Health Care Agency:

Expanded testing program launched May 4 in Ventura County.

Also expanded criteria for those eligible to be tested. To be tested, call the hotline at 805-652-7660.

9 testing sites are at urgent care centers.

The two state-sponsored testing sites are at:

— Oxnard Performing Arts Center

— Conejo Creek South in Thousand Oaks.

Each site provides a nasal test.

People are encouraged to call a hotline and do online registration for state locations.

Criteria expanded:

Anyone displaying symptoms is eligible to be tested. Some screening on the phone.

Those with mild to severe symptoms are eligible to receive testing. Continue to focus testing for those who are asymptomatic, but have been in close contact with a COVID-19-positive person. Will continue to test first-responders.

Anticipation for expanded testing.

Hope to increase upward to 4,000 a week.

Special outreach, advertising in farmworker community, leveraging Farmworker Resource Program.

Hope to focus effort on targeted community to be tested through state contractors.

Over the next week, county will look at second phase of testing even more people. The state has ambitious goals. So, right now, Ventura County is ramping up testing to reach 4,000 a week. The state goal is to more than double that. The county is looking at the feasibility of that.

Ventura County is continuing to pursue immunity tests. The county is learning about the most appropriate tests to administer and how to procure them and run those tests.

"I think that is an important aspect of the future testing."


Supervisor Bennett:

There may be resistance to testing if people don't want to have stigma of being positive and being quarantined.


Steve Carroll, EMS administrator, Public Health emergency preparedness

Providing information on:

— Hospital status

— Personal protective equipment supplies

— Surge capacity

Continue to work with eight hospitals

Total number of people hospitalized in Ventura County's eight hospitals is 589, 72 of those are in ICU.

23 of the total 589 are COVID-19 patients

10 of the 23 COVID-19 patients in Ventura County are currently in ICU.

Our COVID-19 ICU patients have increased slightly, from an average of 7, to 9 and 10.


There are 185 staffed and available beds without paitients in them.

Possible surge capacity would be above that. 

We have 3 (down from 7) COVID-19-positive patients from long-term-care facilities currently in 3 hospitals — Community Memorial Hospital, Simi Valley Hospital and Pleasant Valley Hospital. 

Ventilator usage in Ventura County's 8 hospitals is now at 23. Not all of those are being used by COVID-19 patients as ventilators are used for a variety of conditions.

In Ventura County, there are currently 189 ventilators available. That number fluctuates.

The county has distributed supplies, including:

— 595,000 N95 masks.

— 474,000 procedure masks

— 3,300 boxes of gloves

Emphasizing agencies have responsibility to procure supplies themselves through their own suppliers.


More swabs from state have been received and distributed. Hope to have additional supplies coming soon.

Surge capacity has been increased by 800 hospital beds, including utilizing temporary tents and reconverting unconventional hospital space for patients.

Staff has been reassigned.

With some selective elective surgical procedures resuming this week, each hospital is re-evaluating its surge plans to ensure they are maintaining surge capacity.

A healthcare coalition held a recent town hall meeting with healthcare and hospitce care providers. Lots of good questions were asked.

County continues to poll skilled nursing facilities for surge capacity. There are currently 234 beds available in 19 skilled nursing facilities.


CEO Powers:

Plans to reopen economy will be data-driven.

Reopening businesses is important for health and local economy. Full alignment with these efforts. These are in perfect alignment.



Supervisor Linda Parks:

Would be good to see how our region is doing since Thousand Oaks and Simi border LA, which has a higher number of COVID-19 cases.


Supervisor Bennett:
Compliment county Public Information Officer Ashley Bautista for updating COVID-19 information provided to the public.
An issue that has come up is regarding the county's daily list of COVID-19 cases in cities. In the case of Ojai, with the listing of six cases, some people thought that means there are six active cases. Bennett asked if there could be "some way of identifying" on the city lists how many of the cases are active.
He said, “It could help ease some people's anxieties in the communities thinking that they have that many people walking around" with COVID-19.

He added that shutting down businesses is in many ways easier than starting to open them up, with the myriad questions presented. "I appreciate how difficult the decisions are."

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Bennett provided a PowerPoint presentation, included here, on the success of the Great Plates program, that uses FEMA funds to allow restaurants to serve three meals a day to residents in need through at least June 10. Ventura County was likely the first county in the state to implement the program that was introduced by Gov. Newsom on April 24 and rolled out in Ventura County on April 27 by the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging working with the Ventura County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services.

The city of Ojai, through HELP of Ojai, delivered its first meals to residents on April 30. Thirteen Ojai Valley residents are participating in the program. To sign up for it, visit .

5 5 supes15Supervisor Huber:

Supervisor Bob Huber expressed concern for "a group I call the 'forgotten middle' " — people who do not have access to credit cards or computers, often the working poor. Essential workers cannot plan for a ripped pair of pants or a damaged shoe. Let us not forget them as we make plans to reopen businesses. 

Supervisor Parks:

Ojai doing fantastic out there with the Great Plates program.

Need to see what we can do to grow it. 

I am also happy to see in Thousand Oaks has one of 2 COVID-19 state testing facilities at Conejo Creek South.

Assistance League of Conejo Valley providing youth in high-risk areas to keep doing their school work. It provided 25 Chromebooks to the Safe Passages program and donated to Meals on Wheels.

Shout-out to Senior Concerns, trying to help seniors one at a time.




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