Ventura County Board of Supervisors discuss updates on COVID-19 and county health response


Doctors perform a drive-thru test for the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Academic Family Medicine Center in Ventura. Image courtesy of Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

By Dominic D'Amico

Tuesday morning, at a meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Director of Ventura County Public Health Rigoberto Vargas delivered a report to the board. In his report, Vargas discussed the progress made in increasing the amount of testing done for the COVID-19 coronavirus as well as the speed at which the tests are analyzed. At the meeting, Vargas reported a total of 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which has since risen to 17 in the following days.

During his presentation, Vargas also emphasized that Ventura County Public Health was working to increase the speed of testing with results reported within 12-24 hours, prioritizing tests from physicians in emergency rooms and hospitals that need quick turnaround.

“I’m very comfortable that, moving forward, within 24 hours we will be able to report back the results of testing done in our Public Health Lab,” Vargas stated.

Following Vargas’ report, health officer for Ventura County Public Health Dr. Robert Levin stepped up to the podium to report on two new pieces of guidance from the state. The first was an executive order from governor Gavin Newsom, redirecting California agencies to work to protect all health care, residential and non-residential facilities licensed by the state, especially facilities with COVID-19 vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, the second piece of guidance ordered that by March 18, all bars, pubs and wineries to shut down, while restaurants should close dining areas and only allow drive-thru, carry-out and other eat-away services, while taking measures to ensure that crowds waiting for these services don’t grow too large. Meanwhile, grocery stores and other food distribution sites are to remain open but take steps to ensure proper social distancing.

According to Ambulatory Care Medical Director Dr. Theresa Cho, testing is occurring at all ambulatory care sites, but is limited by supplies, especially the supply of nasal swabs used in testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We did distribute some more masks out to our clinics yesterday that needed them and so they have a supply, but again we’re running through them rather quickly,” Cho stated.

Cho also informed the board that drive-thru testing had begun at four Urgent Care locations within Ventura County, with three more locations scheduled to open by Thursday. The open locations at the time were in Ventura, Oxnard, Simi Valley and Fillmore, with three additional locations scheduled to open in Thousand Oaks, West Ventura and Oxnard, respectively.

Next the board heard about efforts to set up a 24/7 coronavirus public health line, which has since gone live. Vargas filled in details about the implementation of the hotline as well as other efforts to make multilingual information available to those who need it.

Following these reports, updates were presented on hospital surge planning and efforts to protect vulnerable populations like seniors and the homeless. County Executive Officer Mike Powers informed the board that all county buildings providing non-essential services, including all Ventura County schools and libraries, would be closed to the public.

In the press release regarding the closures, Powers deemed the closures necessary, stating, “A threat like this requires bold action. We do not do it lightly. We need to do all we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis.”

Finally, the board voted 5-0 to adopt a resolution declaring a local emergency and allocating additional funds to Powers’ office in order to help deal with the emergency situation.

To find more information on the COVID-19 outbreak visit the VC Emergency website or call the county’s 24/7 hotline at 211.