Ventura County officially moves down into less restrictive red tier amid COVID-19 regulations


By David Chavez

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Ventura County officially moved from the purple tier of restrictions into the red tier, which means businesses can now open indoors instead of outdoors only. The changes that come with the new tier apply to restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, massage businesses and places of worship.

The move to red tier followed the California Department of Public Health sector specific guidance for reopening and officially passed on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

In order to be in the red tier, Ventura County had to see average case rates drop below seven per 100,000 people and testing positivity rates dip below 8%. For two weeks, Ventura County met those benchmarks and as of Tuesday, Oct. 6, the case rate is 5.5 per 100,000 people and the test positivity rate is 3.0%.

Mike Powers, the County Executive Officer stated, “This is great news for our County and our business community. We will continue to advocate for our local businesses and appreciate this opportunity to move forward.”

Moving into the red tier allows more places to open up, but with restrictions placed on them according to the new Ventura County Health Office Order.

Rigoberto Vargas, the Ventura County Public Health Director, urged Ventura County to continue to move forward and not revert back into the purple tier.

“The credit belongs to our residents, who have made lots of sacrifices and worked hard to improve our community transmission metrics,” stated Vargas. “That same hard work must continue moving forward so that we don’t revert back to the purple tier and instead continue making progress towards the next tier, orange, so that additional businesses can reopen.”

Overview of California's four-tier, reopening framework, that went into effect on August 31, 2020.
Overview of California's four-tier, reopening framework, that went into effect on August 31, 2020.

Elementary and secondary schools can reopen for in-person instruction by Oct. 21 if Ventura County can stay in the red tier for two more weeks.

Doctor Robert Levin, a Public Health Officer, reminded people of the dangers of COVID-19 and to take the same precautions.

“COVID-19 is still circulating in our County. It’s important that community members continue to take all the same precautions so that we can continue to move forward: wear face coverings in public, maintaining physical distancing, wash hands frequently and stay home if you’re sick,” stated Levin.

The California Department of Public Health has issued a new Health Equity Metric that goes into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The goal for the Health Equity Metric is to prevent spread among disproportionately impacted Californians.

Ventura County has been committed to equitable response, serving and protecting the most vulnerable ever since the pandemic begun. They’ve done things such as free testing, expanded testing hours and locations, contact tracing, multi-lingual outreach, assistance programs for food, rent and household bills, waived clinic fees, hotel vouchers, permanent housing and more.

“Unlike several other counties, the case rate and testing positivity rates in our most impacted areas do not stand to hold us back from moving tiers,” stated Vargas. “In fact, our positivity rate has improved significantly enough in these areas that we might be eligible for an ‘accelerator adjustment,’ whereby we can move tiers based on that metric alone, even if our overall case rate was to keep us in a lower tier.”

The Health Equity Metric measures COVID-19 positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods and requires that the lowest Healthy Places Index quartile be below 8% of COVID-19 positive cases in those disadvantaged neighborhoods.

In order to enter the state’s less restrictive orange tier, Ventura County needs to be below 5%. As of Oct. 6, the county is at a 3.6% positivity rate for the lower HPI quartile compared to 3.0% for the county overall.

For more information and updates about COVID-19 in Ventura County, visit their website.