Ventura County schools and businesses plan to reopen after two weeks in the red tier


Image provided by the Center for Control and Disease Prevention.

By Aleea Evangelista

On Oct. 14, Ventura County announced their path to moving down to the moderate orange tier and supporting local businesses in a COVID-19 press conference.

Last week on Oct. 6, Ventura County reported that their status of reaching the less restrictive red tier within the Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan, which allows for nonessential businesses and services to resume operation. The next step towards reopening is to move into the orange tier, which requires that the spread of coronavirus is moderate with 1 to 3.9 daily new cases (per 100,000 people) and a case positivity of less than 5%.

Unlike past Ventura County COVID-19 press conferences, the Oct. 14 update took place in The Oaks shopping center in Thousand Oaks.

Kelly Long, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Board Chair, expressed her enthusiasm for achieving the county’s red tier status and noted that the county must remain at the red tier for three weeks before shifting to the orange tier.

“Based on the Oct. 6 date, getting into the red means that in 14 days, or October 21, the school system can start opening up,” said Long. “Which means not just waivers for K to 6, but actually school districts can start opening up based on their own guidelines, comfort level and working with parents and students.”

Long highlighted the county’s prioritization of keeping children, teachers and school personnel healthy to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Long then discussed the services and businesses reopening throughout the county, such as church services and outdoor playgrounds.

The Ventura County Public Health Director, Rigoberto Vargas, reviewed the county’s coronavirus metrics based on data from Oct. 13 released by the state. Only 53 new positive cases were recorded within Ventura County and added to the total amount of 13,941 cases.

Vargas noted that there are 27 coronavirus hospitalizations and eight of these cases are being treated in the ICU on Oct. 13. In addition, testing has increased as Vargas reports that there are 925 newly tested Ventura County residents, which brings the total number of coronavirus tests to 199,973 as of Oct. 14.

“23% of all Ventura County residents have now gotten tested and it’s a wonderful testament to all of you for getting tested and to our county’s resources and efforts to have such a capacity to test almost 200,000 residents,” said Vargas. “And the wait time is even less than 24 hours, oftentimes, so I encourage everyone to get tested.”

Ventura County has a positive case rate of 5.2 and a 2.7 test positivity rate, which shows an improvement in coronavirus metrics.

A new health equity metric was introduced last week by the California Department of Public Health that provides each county with a score called the California Healthy Places Index.

According to the California Department of Public Health website, the aim of the equity metric is to “ensure that the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods, as defined as being in the lowest quartile of the Healthy Places Index census tracts, do not significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.”

With the Healthy Places Index, the health equity metric is measured and Ventura County has a positive case rate of 3.8 within the county’s low-income and vulnerable communities, which corresponds to the orange tier.

Vargas warned that the county’s coronavirus cases could increase if residents do not continue to follow the preventative measures of social distancing and wearing masks. Vargas also noted the upcoming Halloween holiday and the possibility of a coronavirus surge due to large gatherings.

Residents were reminded to limit large gatherings to a maximum of three other households, as the county has reported positive cases related to large gatherings.

Drew Powers, the city manager of Thousand Oaks, expressed his appreciation for The Oaks mall serving as the press conference’s location. As more local businesses reopen, Powers discussed the Thousand Oaks City Council’s efforts to support small businesses.

A $10,000 small business grant program was implemented by the Thousand Oaks City Council to assist business owners and employees.

Powers expressed his commitment to shopping locally with small businesses.

“We have such a wonderful and varied business community here in Thousand Oaks and across Ventura County. Please, please support them in any way that you can,” said Powers. “From home improvement to dining out, from pool supplies to pet food, please shop local and help bridge these crucial businesses through to brighter days.”

Ventura County will hold another weekly COVID-19 press conference on Oct. 21.

For further information and updates on the coronavirus in Ventura County, visit their website.