Ventura County issues new coronavirus health order, allowing some low-risk businesses to reopen

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Ventura County has issued a new public health order and is allowing some businesses to reopen Friday, aligning with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans for the state.

Lower-risk businesses that are allowed to reopen with curbside pickup include low-risk retail companies like clothing stores, bookstores, sporting good stores, toy stores and florists. Related manufacturing and supply-chain businesses are also being allowed to resume amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Officials changed the name for health order from “stay well at home” to “stay well VC.”

“We are at a turning point because of the community’s incredible compliance with social distancing and the sacrifices of individuals and businesses,” County Executive Officer Mike Powers said in a news release. “These efforts have saved lives, helped prevent the spread of the virus in our community and put us in a position to move forward gradually and safely in reopening our economy.”

Powers said that even though some restrictions are being lifted, it is important that residents continue to practice social distancing and that businesses make modifications to lower the risk of exposure.

“It’s not a return to normal, it is a return to a new normal, and physical distancing is going to be part of our lives for the foreseeable future,” Powers said during a news conference Friday.

He explained that partially reopening is possible because the county has made progress in meeting Newsom’s requirements, including expanding testing and contact tracing, and making sure hospitals have surge capacity.

Most counties in California, however, do not meet the governor’s standards for reopening, a Los Angeles Times analysis found.

Businesses in Ventura County must register online before reopening and the county released the following requirements that businesses must meet:

  1. The business must be a part of the designated industries permitted to reopen by the state and the county.
  2. Employers and owners must perform a detained risk assessment of the business in accordance with state guidelines.
  3. Employers and owners must have a worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan and have it posted at the business.
  4. Employers and owners must implement disinfectant protocols for the business in accordance with the California Department of Public Health.
  5. Employees must be trained on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms.
  6. Businesses must agree to have an on-duty employee responsible for monitoring compliance to the plan.
  7. Businesses must post a compliance hotline flyer in a prominent location that is visible to the public and employees.
  8. Employers and owners must complete an attestation form and confirm they meet all requirements to reopen.

Officials reminded employers that those who need to self-isolate because of coronavirus are encouraged to stay home.

Powers said that as of Friday afternoon, 129 businesses had already registered to reopen, and that the Economic Development Collaborative estimates 2,000 businesses in the county could be allowed to reopen under phase two of the governor’s plan.

An additional 21 new coronavirus cases were reported in Ventura County Friday, bringing the total to 652. The death toll remains at 19, Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas said.

He added that the number of cases continue to rise partly because of increased testing capacity in the county, but that officials hope to keep hospitalization rates stable.

“You’ve all done a wonderful job keeping us from having worse numbers. We’re actually doing very well compared to many other counties,” Vargas said, before adding a caveat. “We’re not out the woods, this is a serious health issue.”

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