May 19: Ventura County Board of Supervisors meets on local response to COVID-19

5 19 20 COUNTY

Ventura County Board of Supervisors held its Tuesday, May 19, meetings on COVID-19, starting at 8:30 a.m. The recorded meeting can be viewed at:


The Ojai Valley News reported on the meeting as it occurred, with notes on statements made during the meeting.

 Jeff Pratt, head of Ventura County Public Works, gives presentation on Public Works Week.


County CEO Mike Powers: Big steps so Ventura County can move

through Phase 2 at an acclerated pace.

Application to get a variance from state criteria.

Governor made announcement Monday he was changing criteria to reopen. Allowed us to pivot and move forward. 

Ventura County Public Health Director Dr. Robert Levin is in support of in-store retail. We are getting clarification from the state about it.

He is in the process of reviewing whether malls and swap meets can safely reopen.

Dr. Levin is also in favor of schools reopening, with modifications.

Governor adjusted two key criteria.

New criteria reflected in business registration form Tuesday, May 19, at 

 — Surge capacity.

— Businesses are registering. They do not have to be inspected to reopen. So far, 2,386 businesses have registered.

Asking essential businesses that were already open to register. We want to make sure the opening protocols are followed.


Supervisor Kelly Long asks questions about beaches, RV parks, youth sports, hairdressers, etc.

Want people to know these are the conversatons we are having. Memorial Day is coming, but that doesn't mean we don't social distance. Working with the state on those. 

Look at how much we have opened since May 7 and May 12. Hope we can open up more today.

Supervisor Steve Bennett

Where are religious organizations in reopening stage?


CEO Powers:

Governor talked about religious service offices being allowed to open. The governor mentioned that would be able to have new guidance in next couple weeks on congregations. The Public Health Order still limits religious organizations to still no more than 10 allowed to prepare streaming videos for religious services.

Counseling services in religious organizations can now be opened.


Supervisor John Zaragoza:

Getting  a lot of calls about hairdressers and nail salons.


Supervisor Linda Parks:

This rollout is important. I think this is a significant step. Even talking about limited schools.


CEO Powers:

State still has to grant variances.


Supervisor Bob Huber:

Think we can control the beach crowds and allow some parking at beaches. People with disabled placards should at least be able to park at the beach.


Supervisor Bennett 

Here we are on Day 1 taking advantage of reopening opportunities. Congratulations to CEO Powers and his team.

All supervisors advocating for the public in terms of trying to have this happen. We have accomplished some significant things in VC. Done with significant amount of unanimity. That is a compliment to everyone who has put their shoulders into it.


CEO Powers:

Constantly communicating with state legislators, supervisors, constituents. Helps us make a really strong case to the state.


Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas:

New positive cases: 12 from day before.

453 more people tested over day before.

4 new deaths for a total of 29 in Ventura County. That is 4 more than reported on May 18.

26 COVID-19 positive in the hospital reported May 18; 14 were in the ICU.

Deaths categorized by Public Health practices.


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County now fully meets first state metrics for increased reopening:

— VC hospitals show 3.5 percent decrease in hospitalized patients — meets state criteria of no more than 5 percent.

— 16.6 percent test positive in VC, which meets state criteria.

— Employee protection protocols in place. Information available in English and Spanish.

— VC capacity for testing at 1,360 per day exceeds state criteria.


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Supervisor Linda Parks asked about masks.

It looks like the state is asking for customers to wear masks. I want to see how that works with county position that you don't have to wear masks.

Dr. Levin:

If the state requires masks in restaurants, they would be required since counties can have stricter rules than the state, but not less strict.

I support any business that requires wearing of masks.


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Supervisor Parks:

She said she wants to look at it further. If retailers post that face coverings are required, she said she is concerned that employees are getting badgered if it is a business requirement, but not required in Ventura County by a Ventura County Public Health Order. She said she feels the county needs to support the state's efforts and support the empoyees as they are the ones potentially being exposed if customers are not wearing masks.

Dr. Levin:



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As far as stores requiring their customers to wear masks, I think it is absolutely appropriate.

I don't feel at this time good about universal wearing of cloth masks because I don't have a lot of faith in cloth masks.

I have more faith in hospital masks, but don't want to encourage their use because they are needed in the medical sector.





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Supervisor Parks:

She said she is talking about asymptomatic people out there. Anything people can do to cover their faces, even if not as effective as surgical masks, is helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Wearing a face mask is a respectful thing to do and "I feel strongly about it." She said she understands the concern about having enough medical masks for medical workers.

She said she thinks wearing masks should be required in Ventura County. "This is a difference in opinion here. I don't kow what my authority on this is." However, she said that people in a business not wearing face coverings, are potentially exposing the employees.

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Dr. Levin:

I have concerns about cloth masks in this regard.

After several washings, cloth masks become porous and do not impede carrying organisms.

Concern about people touching the exterior of their masks and spreading the virus.

There are other reasons, too.

These are the things that have made me ambivalent about recommending it.

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Dr. Levin said he supports businesses that require wearing face coverings.

"For this reason, I have a mask in my pocket right now."


Barry Zimmerman, Health Care Agency manager:

VC will achieve state level of testing capacity of 1,300-plus.

VC really targets those who have symptoms get tested, along with those who are asymptomatic, but have been exposed to people with COVID-19.

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However, with increased testing capacity, VC encourages all with the slightest suspicion that they have COVID-19 to come in and be tested. Or if you think you have been exposed, you are encouraged to get tested.

Visit  to find locations and times for test sites.

9 test locations — 7 at county urgent-care locations, and 2 test sites at Oxnard Performing Arts Center and Newbury Park Library.

State tests are high-volume sites.

Appointments are necessary. To expand testing capacity, opening Wednesday, May 20, there will be 3 more testing sites in Santa Paula, 128 S. Hallock Drive, and at Ventura and Moorpark colleges; drive-through testing stations will be available.

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People will self-administer the test.

County is working with a lab in Monrovia — LGC. There is about a 48-hour turnaround to get results. VC team will notify each individual on the results.

Received information that, due to the high volume of testing, some of the labs' time to deliver results has been extended beyond 48 hours. Some are 7 days. We will be monitoring that as best as possible.

We have seen an increase in the number of tests with increased capacity and access points throughout the county.

VC is also targeted communities at higher risk to be tested.

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85 percent of VC population are now within 5 miles of a testing location. That will improve with even greater coverage with Moorpark and Santa Paula sites.

Public Health Director Vargas:

Have 40 contact tracers.

Training 25 new contact tracers on May 19. VC will have a total of 65 contact tracers in Ventura County to follow up on every positive COVID-19 case.

Our case investigation has not stopped. We follow up on all the cases.


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65 will be fully trained by end of this week. Have 70 on standby. More than ready to trace every single individual, even with increased numbers of COVID-19-positive people.

Quarantine support: It is a long-standing practice of Public Health to support individuals with Communicable Diseases staff to isolate and quarantine. Communicable Diseases team is there to support them. The county is not removing people from their homes. It is providing a voluntary support system.

Supervisor Zaragoza:

Underscore that county is not removing people from their homes.

Supervisor Long:

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Regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in businesses, business people who have outbreaks in their businesses should contact Public Health, get everyone tested, have employees advised on safety protocols and ensure cleaning protocols are in place.

She asked Public Heath Director Vargas what people should do if their business is affected by COVID-19.

Director Vargas:

With regard to COVID-19 outbreak at Calavo packinghouse in Santa Paula, county staff met with the business to ensure standard operating plan for measures to keep employees safe. Tested employees and allowed to open only when employees tested. Only non-positive employees able to return to work until quarantine period is over. Businesses then monitored for safety protocols 

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Looked at situation with proximity between people at work and during breaks and lunch. Identified high-risk areas and monitored business plan for social-distancing guidelines. Made social-distancing very clear with markings on the floor and provided shade and outdoor areas for the employees to take breaks and have lunch.


Steve Carroll, head of Emergency Medical Services to discuss hospital capacity:

26 hospitalized in county with COVID-19.

15 of those 26 in ICU.

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3 residents of long-term-care facilities housed in hospital due to testing positive for COVID-19.

4 long-term-care-facilities' residents in holding units at four hospitals.

30 ventilator patients in county for a number of conditions; 164 ventilators available.

153 staffed and available hospital beds.

742 additional surge-capacity beds available.

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Last week, we received 1 million masks for ag commissioner to provide to agricultural workers. Also, Sheriff's Office of Emergency Services has been given masks.

Working closely to ensure safety of residents of long-term-care facilities. Residents with COVID-19 moved to hospital holding unit if unable to isolate safely in their long-term-care facility until their quarantine period is over.

Also, it is National Emergency Medical Services Week. Theme is: Ready today, preparing for tomorrow. "We see your courage and dedication."




Victoria Jump, head of Ventura County Area Agency on Aging, discussed protection of vulnerable populations:

VC is housing more than 15 percent of homeless. Currently, providing housing to 351 individuals at high risk in VC through Project Roomkey.

Helped 20,000 with Cal-Fresh benefits.

The Human Services Agency has provided 26,000 calls to vulnerable individuals.

Over 1 million masks distributed to ag workers and grocery store workers.

More than 417,000 meals delivered to 15,000 vulnerable people in VC.

Great Plates program with restaurants entering week 4. Through past 3 weeks, Great Plates has served more than 47,000 meals to more than 1,700 people who have signed up.

That will equate to 36,000 meals a week delivered to that population.


Tara Carruth, VC Continuum of Care, regarding Project Roomkey:

Nearly all rooms are full for at-risk homeless community.

Just 4 or 5 rooms rooms left to be filled in west county. About 20 rooms left in east county. The question is at what point do we stop taking new referrals, since need to focus on services for people alread there?

People in Project Roomkey are provided:

24-hour security.


On-site managers providing case-management services, linkages to healthcare and Behavioral Health services; and linkages to nonprofits providing services such as laundry, meals, snacks and other services. Pretty comprehensive with services.


Supervisor Parks:

Wondering if purchasing hotels/motels to continue to house vulnerable unsheltered people in Ventura County is being pursued in VC, as is being worked on at the state level.

Tara Carruth:
We are exploring next steps. We are eager to pursue those possibilities if we are able to find a path forward.
CEO Powers:
Once FEMA funding ends, state funding may be available to purchase hotels.
State requires capacity to house 15 percent of vulnerable population. That would be 261. We are housing 351, so we are meeting that criteria.
Tara Carruth, Continuum of Care:
Gov prioritized this initiative to prevent spread of COVID-19 among homeless and general population
CEO Powers:
Really a good measure to protect against spread of other communicable diseases.
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Kim Prillhart, Resource Management Agency director:
Assure people that business COVID-19 compliance phone number, 805-202-1805, number works. County also created the 
844 VCreopen number since it is easier to remember. Both numbers work.
Supervisor Bennett:
Challenges with Punch Bowls in Santa Paula Canyon and Matilija Canyon as people from Los Angeles look to get out in the wilderness. County is working with county staff, road department, Sheriff’s Office, Forest Service. For public listening to this, be aware that the public using public resources involves numerous agencies. They are working to keep associated problems down. We have some challenges right now and everybody is working on them.
Supervisor Huber:
Would like to open to outdoor weddings.
Dr. Levin:
I am here to talk about the attestation.
Today we are putting forward a variance to stage 2 of California’s roadmap to modify the stay-at-home order.
We are in Phase 2. We want to move into accelerated Phase 2.
The importance of this attestation: It’s a liberalizing, or an opening up, of our county. It is this in terms of personal freedoms. It is this in terms of economy. We face risks in doing this.
We see an economic expansion — a welcome and needed economic expansion in our county, on the one hand, and an opening up of our social interactions, which we are cognizant puts us at risk of increased transmission of COVID-19  This is a delicate balancing act. I think our county is up to the task.
So how do we achieve this? I will be mentioning a number of the things that have already been gone over this morning.
Epidemiological stability important.
We need to have stable hospitalizations of patients from day to to day. We have had 25 patients hospitalized in VC, every day with COVID-19 for quite a while now. The reason that is important is to be hospitalized with COVID, you do not have to be tested…
It’s only after presenting to the ER that a number of these patients are discovered to have COVID. That is why this is an important number to look at.
We have been stable with this.
State wants us only to increase at a rate of about 5 percent over 7 days. We have decreased by 3.4 percent over 7 days.
Percent of testing positive has to have bene less than 8 percent. We have been less than 3.5 percent…
The protection of essential workers. We need a Strong social-distancing protocol, the state says. 
And We do have that. We limit the number of people who enter our facilities. We have 6-foot spacing, hand sanitizers. Soap and water.
We are asking businesses to register along these new criteria so we know we’re all on the same page, all progressing forward. All have signs up.
 List responsble person what we are doing to protect the public and that has a compliance number: 844-VCopens.
The third thing we have to look at is our testing capacity. We are expected by the state by their criteria to test 1,300 people a day. Doing 450 to 550 tests per day. We do want to get to 1,300 a day. We have capacity to do more than 1,300. We can do it. How do we do it? We’ve communicated with physicians through “hot tips,” tells them the old criteria are out the window. You don't have to be real sick, be a senior or have co-morbidity to test a person. If they have slightest hint or suspicion or person, or a person is worried, you can send them for a test.
Now there are new testing sites where people do not need a doctor recommendation to be tested. Visit for a list of testing sites.
Testing is available for 85 percent of residents within 30-minute drive, which exceeds state’s 75 percent criteria.
Increasing sentinel providers, who start testing early for influenza and COVID, constantly sampling the population to give us an early warning. 
If we open up more and more, we have to watch very carefully what is happening with the state of the disease. ... We all want to see it decrease.
Containment capacity. We have to be able to do contact tracing. When we find a case, talk to them, find out who their close contact are and get in touch with them. Tell them to quarantine themselves and watch them. 
We have now brought on 60 people who can do this. 70 others soon ready to go.
 … Hopefully we won't need them.
We have temporary housing as part of this containment capacity, where we need to shelter 15 percent of the at-risk homeless people in our county
We are at 20 percent. We exceeded the state standard.
Look at PPE, surge capacity, etc.
We have good strong depth to all of these things now in our county.
Need 35 percent excess of what we normally have for surge capacity. We are between 60 to 65 percent of what we normally have. …
We do hospital-employee screening and we have adequate PPE. 
We have to protect the vulnerable population. We focus on the skilled nursing facilities and all the long-term-care facilities in our county. We are constantly in communication with them with a full-time staff person. We have visited every skilled nursing facility in the county and looked their preparedness in terms of COVID-19.
We have a unique program in Ventura County. Any resident of a long-term-care facility with COVID-19, with or without symptoms, can be accepted into a hospital in Ventura County.
The reason we want to do this is because so many elderly and with co-morbidites live in those facilities. It is the last place we want a case of COVID-19.

In terms of sectors and timelines, on May 13, we allowed curbside retail in our county, personal services like carwashing, pet grooming, tanning facilities, landscape gardening, office-based businesses, child care, outdoor museums and open galleries.

These are all things that have helped our economy. We have triggers for modifications. 

What will be new then if we get to accelerated Phase 2?

We will open restaurants with limited seating, with careful attention to social distancing in those restaurants. We will have indoor shopping in many of the businesses in our county with decreased density and with social distancing.

We will likely have modified K-12 school opening in the fall. We are waiting for state guidelines for this. The devil is in the details. I would like to see this happen, so I’m going to do my best to interpret …. to allow in-school education, though modified, in the fall.


If this variance is approved by your board, it will be submitted today. This is an attestation. An attestation is basically a self-declaration. … We have met all of these responsibilities. I believe we do meet all the requirements of the state. I can attest that we merit this.


I have to say, at this point, is to thank the people of our county because getting to this point is due to our public, is due to the hard efforts, the responsibilities and sacrifices. They are the heroes here.

With businesses opening, there’s, a caution because there are more opportunities for gathering. We have to be more responsible than we have been even before. It does not mean quarantine is over just because you’ve been allowed to got to a restaurant or a business. We have to be very responsible for ourselves and we have to be politely responsible to those around us so this continues to be a team effort in protecting all of our health.
Spend money if you can afford to do so. Spend it locally in our county. Aggressively support failing and borderline businesses with your spending. Target your spending. Put spending pressure on them, so that they are forced to rehire because that’s what we want to see in our county. I am hoping your board will support this variance to Phase 2 and send this over to the state.

CEO Powers:
Clarify State requirement is that our testing capacity be more than 1,280. VC testing capacity exceeds that requirement as VC capacity is 1,360. So, we will exceed that capacity.
Supervisor Parks:
More to come. I do support it. Happy to make a motion.
Supervisor Zaragoza:
Second the motion
Supervisor Huber:
Support Ventura County opening "at our own pace, with local control. Our residents say they are ready to move forward and I agree with them."
Dr. Levin:
I have high confidence that with the board's support that this will move through the state fairly rapidly. I would urge those businesses with curbside to determine how to welcome people back safely. I encourage restaurants to do the same. I expect this will move through state with almost breathtaking speed.
Supervisor Long:
Will announce in a public press release when the state approves Ventura County's attestation to move forward with advanced Stage 2 openings.
CEO Powers:
County will explore purchasing hotels.
Some trigger cuts in governor’s May revised budget.
To view the Ventura County government documents submitted to the state for accelerated reopening, visit:
County review letter for attesting state criteria for advanced reopening met:
Ventura County government letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Dr. Sonia Angell, head of the California Department of Public Health:
Ventura County letters in support of Ventura County meeting state’s criteria for accelerated reopening:
Ventura County COVID-19 Ventura County Roadmap to Reopening:



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