The total number of coronavirus cases in Ventura County has surpassed 4,700 as officials stressed the importance of trying to limit community spread of the illness.
As of Wednesday, the county has a total of 4,787 coronavirus cases with 56 deaths. Oxnard, the county’s most populous city, had a total of 1,616 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday.
Currently, 101 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county, with 27 in intensive care, Rigo Vargas, the county’s public health director said, calling the figures “sobering.”
“This is a serious health condition,” Vargas said Wednesday.
As in many parts of the state and country, Ventura County’s increasing hospitalization rate is partly driven by community transmission stemming from gatherings, according the California Department of Public Health.
Vargas urged residents to continue taking measures to limit community spread by wearing masks and only going out with members of their own household.
“Assume everyone around you is positive,” Vargas stressed.
The county has greatly expanded free testing to anyone who has “the slightest suspicion” of having COVID-19, or has been exposed to someone who has tested positive.
Testing is offered countywide at drive-up testing sites, urgent care locations and two sites operated by the state. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 90,000 people have been tested in the county.
But due to increasing demand, wait times at the drive-up sites, which do not require an appointment, could be up to three hours, said Barry Zimmerman, chief deputy director for the county’s health care agency.
He added that officials are working on possibly adding additional testing cites, including mobile ones to reach difficult to reach or remote areas like Piru.
Officials in the region have prioritized testing and outreach for vulnerable communities, including farmworkers.
After a recent outbreak of the virus in farmworker housing, the percentage of positive cases among that population rose from just 2% to 7%, Vargas said.
With the help from community and county organizations, officials have been able to distribute nearly 1 million masks to farmworkers in the region, said Ed Williams, Ventura County’s agriculture commissioner.
In addition, an extensive outreach program was also launched to ensure farmworkers and their families are aware of how they can protect themselves from contracting coronavirus.
This includes radio ads in Spanish and Mixtec, an indigenous language spoken by many farmworkers in the region, and WhatsApp messages, said Israel Vasquez-Nicolas, of the county’s Farmworker Resource Program.
Ventura County was the first in Southern California to get the green light to reopen shopping areas and indoor dining in restaurants. But earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings across the state amid a statewide surge in cases and ordered all Southern California counties to halt indoor activities at restaurants, gyms, places of worship, personal care facilities and malls.
“This is a wake up call for us,” Ventura County Executive Officer Mike Powers said Wednesday of the rise in cases. “We know that because of the work that you’re doing, we’re going to start driving those numbers back down.”