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Ventura County Board of Supervisors' special meeting on COVID-19 on May 12

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Screenshot of Kelly Long, chair of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, at meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

 

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors held its weekly special meeting on COVID-19 on Tuesday, May 12, starting at 8:30 a.m.:

It can be viewed at:

 

https://ventura.granicus.com/player/clip/5423?view_id=67

 

This post provides comments from the meeting as they are being made and includes PowerPoint slides presented by county officials.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, a letter from Ojai Councilman William Weirick was read aloud:

"Yesterday, I was told that large corporate, big box, retailers like Target were being allowed to have in-store clothing sales while small business clothing stores were still restricted to curb-side or delivery. I found this hard to believe, but confirmed it personally last evening. From a managed risk perspective, is the County of Ventura telling small businesses that it is greater risk for them to have in-store clothing sales than Target or Costco, with the same or greater distancing and other safety protocols? Does also selling food somehow magically mean a lower risk inside a big box retailer with inherently greater crowd intensity? How can small-business owners avoid the conclusion that Ventura County is discriminating against them in favor of large corporate retailers?"

 

 

5 8 VARELAMark Varela, Ventura County chief probation officer, in a screenshot of a video shown at the May 12 Board of Supervisors' meeting honoring probation officers during their special week of recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County CEO Mike Powers: 

 All retail now open for curbside pickup, along with manufacturing and supply-chain businesses.

Businesses are now categorized as "low risk" and "high risk," no longer "essential" and "nonessential."

Businesses that are reopening are for curbside pick-up. They do not need to be inspected to reopen. They just need to register at www.vcreopen.com.

Since Friday, 525 Ventura County businesses had registered to reopen.

 LA County beaches to reopen soon. 

 

 

Supervisor Kelly Long said she encourages people to go to www.covid19.ca.gov  and that the supervisors are  advocating with the state to share best practices so more Ventura County businesses can reopen.

 

Supervisor John Zaragoza said he appreciates county Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Levin providing good guidance to allow businesses to open up safely and not "willy-nilly."

 

Supervisor Steve Bennett said there is consideration of allowing retail businesses to let one customer at a time into the store. 

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Kim Prillhart, director of Ventura County Resource Management Agency, pictured at right.

 

Businesses do not have to be inspected to reopen. They have to register at www.vcreopens.com.

COVID-19 business compliance phone number is 805-202-1805.

 

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Levin:

There are a number of disparate ideas out there about the movement of our county though the process of reopening. Hard sometimes to see how they wil piece together and work for us. What are our goals?

How much more testing do we have to do and why?

 

5 12 FISH31What is holding us back?

Is there an actual concrete goal we have to achieve?

With limited, but concrete, opening of businesses, what steps are we taking to decrease our cases of COVID-19 or are we just going to trust they'll go down by themselves?

One of the goals I want to accomplish before  I feel we can enter accelerated Phase 2 is bringing cases down to six new COVID-19 cases a day, on average, over two weeks. Currently, there are 15 to 20 newly diagnosed cases a day.

Those numbers of new cases will go up as we do more and more testing.

We will do more and more testing.Not surprising we will find more cases.

 

5 12 FISH33How much more testing do we have to do?

We are already seeing upward of 250 to 300 tests a day.

One day last week, there were more than 600 tests done in Ventura County.

May 11, there were more than 500 tests done.

We are expected to get up to 1,300 tests per day if we are going to advance from our Phase 2 to our "accelerated" Phase 2.

We have been held back by a lack of swabs, by physicians in our county who have been getting mixed messages. On the one hand they hear we have to have people tested. On the other hand, they hear there are not enough tests.

5 12 FISH27People who are untested, who have COVID-19, continue to have contact with others and can spread the disease.

This must be the exception, some of you think. I am sorry to tell you that's the rule.

There are more undiagnosed cases than diagnosed.

Your (the public's) actions at quarantining and social distancing is what is holding this at bay.

The numbers of COVID-19 cases in Ventura County are holding right now in a steady state.

 

5 12 FISH26How do I know this?

I focus on one number and that is the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in our county's eight hospitals.

In Ventura County, there have been 26 and 30 hospitalized patients over the last several weeks. This is the trusted number we can lash our hopes to.

There are 850,000 people in our county. Some we know they have COVID-19 because they have been diagnosed.

Many are feeling no symptoms at all or mild symptoms. Diagnosed with COVID or not, they have the potential to become sick and sick enough to require hospitalization. That is why this number is so important. It reflects the true amount of COVID out there in our community.

5 12 FISH25Now we have enough swabs, enough nurses to perform the specimen collection, enough lab capacity to run the tests and enough teams of nurses and contact tracers.

This will inevitably lead to fewer people getting COVID-19.

People can ask their doctors to test them or they can go to the state testing sites in Oxnard and Newbury Park and be tested without a doctor's note.

With 1,300 tests a day, we will see an increase in diagnosed cases, but then we will see the number of diagnosed cases fall, and should then see 6 or fewer diagnosed in a week.

Are encouraging doctors to test anyone with symptoms of any age and encouraging the residents to ask their doctor for COVID-19 if they have symptoms. They can get tested without a doctor's lab request at the state testing sites at Oxnard Performing Arts Center and Newbury Park Library.

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You will have been the ones to comply with Public Health guidelines. You wil have been the ones to recognize this joint mission we are on. 

Constitutional rights are important to all of us.

Some see constitutional concerns in some issues, whereas some do not.

Some see tracing by phone is a constitutional infringement.

To others, it is an obvious necessity to control a dangerous disease.

I am sensitive to both sides of this issue.

5 12 FISH23Supervisor Bob Huber

I believe the Public Health Order of May 7 is an improvement. Ventura County has pioneered the effort to protect people at long-term-care facilities. 

Glad ropes and tapes in big-box stores are gone. Always room for improvement. Pleased that beaches are remaining open. Believe it is wrong to close beach parking. I hope that even half of parking will be opened to alleviate parking in residential areas and help disabled.

Also, it is inhumane to leave restrooms closed. 

5 12 FISH22One-size-fits-all is not the way for this diverse state and county. Need the county to protect the well-being of Ventura County residents short term and long term.

 Dr. Levin

We are looking at all of these issues constantly. Things are changing constantly. Would not be surprised to hear a change in the governor's comments today.

The county cannot be more liberal than the state; it can be more conservative. Doing our best to comply with governor's limitations.

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CEO Powers:

Several counties have closed their beaches. We have strived to keep ours open.

Looking forward to soon relaxing rules for more parking and activities at the beach.

 

CEO Powers: 

The governor has laid out 13 readiness criteria for accelerated phase 2. Some are out of reach for most counties. 

5 12 FISH20Dr. Levin

It would be hard to imagine everyone in the county being tested for COVID-19. It is not hard to imagine everyone in the county having symptoms being tested. Now we expect to see many more people tested with expanded testing capacity.

We will be able to take more and more people out of the common mix who are contagious.

You can call your provider and they can tell you where to go for a test and people can also access tests at the two state testing sites in Oxnard and Newbury Park. We have these primitve methods of controlling COVID-19 — quarantine and isolation. They work, but they are slower to respond than medication or immunization.

 5 12 FISH0Supervisor Bennett:

With regard to the order, I have had some people ask me, where are we with hotel and motel rooms. Are they open?

County Legal Counsel Michael Walker

Public Health orders from the outset have allowed hotels and motels to operate. They can continue operating as they were with no limit on the types of guests who can stay there. 

(On May 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a press release on businesses that are allowed to reopen with health precautions, such as pet groomers and office-based business. However, the press release stated that among the several businesses that are not allowed to operate, per state Public Health orders, are: "hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism.")

Dr. Levin:

5 12 FISH1Regarding elective dental procedures: "It is my feeling, but I want to defer to the state, that elective (dental) procedurees should still not be allowed to be done." Concern about dental hygienists since their procedures create aerosols. It is dangerous for the hygienist and everyone in the office and waiting room. At this point, I am not ready to go there. Waiting for state guidance.

 Supervisor Zaragoza:

When do you think hairdressing will be open?

5 12 FISH2Dr. Levin:

That is in phase 3.

Supervisor Long:

Please explain why counties have to follow the state guidelines?

County counsel Walker:

 5 12 FISH3County serves as political subdivision of the state, so counties are required to comply with the govenror's orders. We can be more restrictive than state, but not less restrictive.

Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas:

Ventura County is under a 5 percent COVID-19-positive rate currently.

Ventura County rate of deaths at 19 is under 3 percent.

5 12 FISH4Supervisor Bennett:

We should not lump Ventura County in with other counties such as Orange and Riverside since we are so close to Los Angeles and have different circumstances.

 

Supervisor Linda Parks:

Our mission first and foremost has to be public health. Not sure other counties have as much a priority of health over economy. I want to make sure that public health stays our prioriy. Do not want Ventura County to get swallowed up in large effort to push to reopen at the expense of people's health.
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Supervisor Long:

I want to make sure we are meeting the state parameters as best we can in negotiation with state and federal authorities.

Trust our community is in good hands. Want to make sure we collaborate with different counties to learn from them. I wanted to make sure that we are in conversation. We do have urban, suburban and rural considerations in Ventura County to take into account.

5 12 FISH6Supervisor Parks:

Our staff  is so good to jump through major hoops, such as working very late Thursday to make sure the www.vcreopens website was up to help retail and manufacturing and supply-chain businesses open for curbside pickup on Friday, May 8, and to have revised Ventura County Public Health Order in place.

Found that to be very comforting that we can move in Ventura County as fast as the governor in rolling out plans to gradually reopen. I really like the concerted effort so we can open as quickly and as safely as possible.

Senior registered Public Health Nurse Hannah Edmondson:

County is in the process of training 60 contact tracers. Training has been completed for 15.

Another group will be trained on May 12.

The first contact tracers trained are members of our larger county work force.

Topics covered in training include communication and follow-up of contacts.

Tracers are organized in groups of 10, assigned to a Public Health nurse in Communicable Disease group.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 are advised to isolate in their home from contacts in and outside their home.

Contact tracer will provide follow-up phone call to contacts to assist them in successfully completing their quarantine.

Patients will be asked to be in isolation in their homes for about 10 days unless they have to be hospitalized.

County has the ability to provide alternate housing if the patient, or a vulnerable individual in the family, wants to leave their home to be able to isolate.

It is a wonderful resource that the county is providing. Only a resource and no one will be removed from their home who does not want to leave.

To given an example of how Public Health nurses and contact tracers work together, we recently learned that a person in a household had COVID-19 and advised the family how to care for the person with COVID-19 and where the other members of the family could get tested.

 If any contacts have symptoms, county will help them arrange for COVID-19 testing.

Supervisor Long:

Are contacts reached by Public Health personnel mandated to answer questions?

Hannah Edmondson:

If we are calling a contact, we want to make sure that the contact understands he or she was around someone with COVID-19 and was potentially exposed. We tell them it is in their best interest to stay in their home and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Barry Zimmerman, Health Care Agency

Ventura County has expanded COVID-19 testing to just under 500 tests a week.

Now, anyone with a symptom or who has been in close contact with someone exposed is able to be tested.

 Steve Carroll, EMS administrator

28 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized.

11 are in ICU.

In Ventura County, 595 people are in the hospital for any number of conditions.

There are 145 staffed and available beds in the eight hospitals in Ventura County.

Additional beds have been identified in the county's surge planning.

1 long-term-care-facility resident has been discharged from the hospital, so there are now only two long-term-care-facility residents housed in hospital holding areas at Pleasant Valley Hospital and Community Memorial Hospital, down from a high of seven.

Monitoring supplies in Ventura County.

There are 29 ventilators in use for patients for a number of conditions, not just COVID-19.
166 ventilators are available in Ventura County.
Watching the available amount of personal protective equipment.
Ventura County is just one of a few counties distributing PPE throughout healthcare agencies. From the very beginning, Ventura County has been addressing our entire healthcare system. Doctors and dentists have contacted the county government for supplies and the county is supplying it where it can. FEMA is supplying a 14-day supply of PPE to skilled nursing facilities. 
Hospitals are monitoring availability of supplies if needed for a surge.

CEO Powers:

Criteria extremely high for accelerated Phase 2 for opening malls, offices and in-restaurant dining.
Rigoberto Vargas, director of Ventura County Public Health
13 criteria in the state plan for counties to meet.

 

COVID-19 numbers as of May 12

20 additional positive COVID-19 cases for a total of 698 cases ever diagnosed as positive in Ventura County.
216 additional tested from the day before for a total of 13,930 Ventura County residents tested.
A sixth death of someone who recently died from COVID-19 (in Santa Paula) will be reported on May 13.
Five other Ventura County residents who died outside of Ventura County several weeks past could be added to the list of county deaths. There is not yet complete information on those five deaths.
Supervisor Long:
What is considered a COVID-19 death?
If someone committed suicide, is it reported as a COVID-19 death?
Who decides if it is a COVID-19 death or not?
Director Vargas:
Public Health departments are under strict requirements to classify these deaths.
If a person who dies with a comorbidity has COVID-19, that is listed as a COVID death.
It does not mean that the person who died does not have another health condition.
Supervisor Long:
Is our death rate in county more or less than last year?
Trying to understand how things are classified.
Director Vargas:
To enter accelerated Phase 2 for reopening, Ventura County has to achieve state criteria.
One is that residents are within 30 minutes of a testing site, a criterion that has been met with testing available at 9 testing sites and two state testing sites, one at Oxnard Performing Arts Center and one at Newbury Park Library. To find a testing site, visit www.vcemergency.com .
Supervisor Bennett:
Nursing homes are the No. 1 battleground. Is the county ensuring the care homes have enough PPE, disinfectants, wipes?
Director Vargas said county Public Health is in constant communication helping to meet the PPE needs of nursing homes.
Director Vargas showed seven PowerPoint slides of where Ventura County is in meeting the state’s criteria for reopening further — four of the slides show the county has met the criteria and the other three demonstrate Ventura County has not met the state’s criteria that is a “very high bar,” that applies primarily to small rural areas.
One state measure is that there be no COVID-19 deaths in the previous 14 days.
Ventura County was holding at 19 deaths on April 13, but with the new death to be reported on May 13, there will be a reset.
Ventura County is providing 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents.
Ventura County has to have 1,300 tests a day to meet this benchmark.
Director Vargas said that will take a few days or weeks to be up to that number of tests a day.
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The county will publish a new dashboard available May 14 for the public to see how Ventura County measures up to state metrics.
Director Vargas said Ventura County is exploring with the state to see if we can move into accelerated Phase 2 without reaching all the state metrics.
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CEO Powers:
Stay tuned. More to come.
Governor announced $54 billion reduction in state budget.
May budget revise from governor will be released on Thursday. 
County will be relentless in protecting safety, health and social services in county.
There will be some pension savings next year. Losses are "smoothed."
Definitely will be an impact locally. However, the county government is positioned well to mitigate impacts and protect our core services at the county.
In terms of caring for vulnerable people, Ventura County Human Services Agency has made 26,000 wellness calls to vulnerable seniors.
Ventura County Area Agency on Aging has provided more than 340,000 meals to seniors and vulnerable residents.
County received $147 million from federal government for COVID-19 response. Looking for flexibility to use for lost revenues in anticipation of federal cuts next year, e.g., Cal Fresh, food stamps, etc.
The reserves, pension savings, federal funding are key pieces to help us mitigate and sustain as we move through.
Supervisor Parks:
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said May 12 that if the country reopens too fast, there could be a second wave of infections.
Is there something we can do now to make that potential less likely?
What plans do we have to deal with that if it happens?
CARES Act brought in $171 million for county transportation.

Dr. John Fankhauser, head of Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital:

Ventura County can prepare for if and when the surge occurs.
Dr. Fauci is warning us that the threat of this virus is not gone. Reopening needs to be done with great caution and care, and we have to be ready to take a step back if a surge does occur.
Because of what has been done in our county, it has given us the ability to do the things you are asking about preparing ourselves with PPE in case the rate of disease increases several fold.
There are some things we have implemented like telemedicine, telehealth, use of hygienists as trained observers, that have allowed time to prepare, so, if and when that surge does come, we will be prepared for it.
Supervisor Bennett:
More than 1,000 people went to the trailhead in the Santa Paula area last weekend. It gets to the point where it's not safe for parking. I just want to try to use this opportunity to ask people to please use these trails like they were designed. A lot of trash left. We want to allow people to continue to get outside. If it doesn't work this weekend, we will have to close the trailhead. Our trails are getting heavier use than usual. State is also opening up trails, which ease the use of local trails.

 

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