BREAKING: More contagious COVID-19 variant likely in Ventura County; cases, hospitalizations, deaths continue to spike

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Slide presented at Jan. 12 Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting.


The more contagious COVID-19 variant is likely in Ventura County, in small numbers so far, according to Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin reporting to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

"It picked a good time to come out," Levin said, noting that with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines this week, "we are on the right track to protecting ourselves from any negative impacts it would have."

In a follow-up with the Ojai Valley News, Levin wrote: "It (the COVID-19 more contagious variant) is likely pretty much everywhere, but also likely in most places in small numbers."

"This week is critical," Levin told the supervisors.

Watch the recorded meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at:

The dramatic spike in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death could be a result of people gathering over the holidays, said Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas.

Public Health is reporting seven COVID-19-related deaths this morning, but Vargas said the actual number to be reported is in the double digits as the Public Health staff checks the death certificates before announcing the most up-to-date numbers. He also announced a record 1,325 new COVID-19 cases in a one-day period as of Tuesday, Jan. 12. "Our heroes in the hospital are just exhausted — they need our help," he said.

County Emergency Medical Services Director Steve Carroll said that 1,002 people are hospitalized in Ventura County — 449 of them with COVID-19 and 89 of those in intensive care units. He said these are record numbers. 

So many people are dying that the decedents are sometimes in hospitals for up to three days since county morgues are full, he said. He added that morgues usually do four embalmings a day and now they are dealing with significantly more. He said a mortuary that normally deals with seven to eight families a day is now serving 50 families. "It is something that is significantly concerning," he said.

 For up-to-date information from the county government on COVID-19, visit 

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Ojai physician Dr. Jim Halverson, who writes a weekly column on COVID-19 for the Ojai Valley News, wrote a column about the more contagious COVID-19 variant on Jan. 8. His column can be read at: 


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