Ventura County requests to break away from SoCal, and form the ‘Central Coast’ region


Moorpark Reporter file photo from Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Aleea Evangelista

On Dec. 8, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and San Luis Obispo voted to send a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom to form the Central Coast Region, separate from the Southern California Region.

In the letter, the three counties requested to exit the stay at home order for Southern California “after three weeks if the ICU capacity in the three counties exceed 15%”.

The regional stay at home order, contingent on a region’s ICU capacity, was enacted by the state on Dec. 6. The state of California is divided into five major regions: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California.

On Dec. 11, the Southern California region reported an ICU availability of 6.2%, well below the required 15% ICU availability needed to lift the stay at home order.

Statewide, California holds an ICU availability of 9.0% on Dec. 11 and Ventura County reports an adult ICU bed availability of 9.2% on Dec. 11 as well.

Ventura County Board of Supervisors Chair, Kelly Long, penned Ventura County’s letter to Newsom and urged for his support in the Central Coast formation.

“We believe that having these three counties working together versus the entire Southern California region, we can better treat, better activate our community,” said Long in a press conference on Dec. 9. “We believe that it is extremely important to have this coastal region connected. Instead of the entire 23 million [Californians], we will be having 1.5 million people in which we are really working on.”

Dr. John Fankhauser, CEO of Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital, mentioned that hospital capacity includes both available hospital beds and available hospital staff.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in hospital beds,” discussed Fankhauser. “Three to four weeks from now, [the increasing trend] will be beyond the capacity of any of our hospitals in Ventura County.”

On Nov. 10, Ventura County had 30 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and four weeks later, the county reported 147 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Dec. 9.

With the exception of a few days, Ventura County’s hospitalizations have continued to increase.

In a press release for the Central Coast region, the request from the three counties was based on: History of collaboration and partnership among the three county public health departments, opportunities to do join prevention and treatment efforts to reduce case rates and testing positivity and higher ICU capacity.

According to the letter to Newsom, the past partnerships between the three counties encouraged collaboration, “at the onset of COVID-19, our counties engaged in joint actions to serve our central coast constituencies through shared testing and lab resources, as well as alternative care site planning and mass communication.”

The Central Coast Region request aims to utilize the partnerships between the three counties to “promote the health and economic well-being of our communities.” Forming the new region would likely allow nonessential businesses and services to be open within the stay at home order’s framework.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, was asked about the Central Coast Region request in a state COVID-19 update on Dec. 8.

“In order to ensure that we have a thoughtful collection of the resources in our hospital delivery system—making sure that if any region were to have a sudden increase in pressure on their ICUs—that we had a network and a system to move patients thoughtfully from every part of a region to those areas in the region where the resources exist,” Ghaly explained.

Ghaly further elaborated on the likelihood of the request, “at the moment we don’t have an intention to make a change to the regions.”