Ventura County looks to further expand coronavirus testing in road to reopening

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Ventura County officials are ready to expand coronavirus testing as the region moves toward further reopening the economy.

Expanding testing and decreasing hospitalizations in the county are crucial in moving forward with opening more businesses in county and additional stages set forth by the state.

Dr. Levin, the county’s public health officer said that since testing remains fairly limited in the county, once it is expanded, more cases should be expected.

As of Monday, there were a total of 678 coronavirus cases in the county, but the death toll has remained at 19 for the past ten days.

“We think there are more cases than that that we’ve not identified. That’s one of our goals, is to find those other cases, so that we can diminish the amount of spread,” Levin said.

He said that at its peak, health officials tested nearly 700 people in a day, but the goal set by the state is 1,300 a day. Officials hope to announce new protocols for testing, as well as new sites this week.

Last week, coronavirus testing was expanded to symptomatic and some asymptomatic people who meet certain criteria, including those who have been in close contact to a person who was confirmed to be positive.

Free testing is available at nine sites throughout the county, with two reserved for frontline and essential workers.

Currently there are 28 people hospitalized with the respiratory illness in the county, a figure that remains steady, but Levin said the goal is to get those numbers even lower.

On Thursday, the county announced a new public health order that allowed low-risk retail businesses, including florists, bookstores, toy stores and sporting good stores, to reopen for curbside pickup and with restrictions. Additionally, related manufacturing and logistics businesses were also allowed to resume.

Each business looking to reopen must first apply to do so online and check off a list of requirements.

The plan aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s protocols for reopening the state.

California is currently in Stage 2 of the governor’s plan, which also includes reopening schools, child care, offices and limited hospitality and personal services. Stage 3 includes reopening movie theaters, religious services as well as more personal and hospitality services. The last step, Stage 4, includes reopening areas that pose the highest risk, like concert venues, conventions and sports arenas, and represents the end of the stay at home order statewide.

As of Monday, more than 400 businesses had applied to reopen, said Mike Powers, the county’s executive officer.

He encouraged others who don’t currently qualify for reopening to devise a plan and be ready for when it is OK to do so.

“The sooner folks are ready with their plans, the better,” Powers said.

While neighboring Los Angeles County is starting to ease restrictions on the outdoors, Ventura County reopened parks and beaches to outdoor recreational activity weeks ago, and officials continue to praise residents for abiding by social distancing guidelines while getting much-needed exercise.

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