Ventura County announces $6 million more in aid for businesses, tenants and a massive new testing site

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Ventura County has expanded public aid for local businesses and tenants by $6 million and will host a massive new coronavirus testing site at the county’s fairgrounds, officials said Wednesday.

In total, 73 COVID-19 patients have died and 6,997 infections have been reported, which includes three deaths and 104 cases recorded Wednesday, according to the Ventura County Health Care Agency.

More than 900 additional cases of the virus have surfaced since last week, when health officials said there was a troubling surge in the daily number of hospitalizations over the last six weeks. Ventura County hospitals went from treating an average of 20 patients to a peak of 101, health officials said.

“It is very serious. We’re very concerned about the hospitals, as this increase does tax their resources,” Steve Caroll, the county’s emergency medical administrator, said last week.

At the time, Carroll said hospitals were still “fully capable” of handling the surge. Since then, health officials have not warned of a strain on resources that could result in people not getting treatment.

On Wednesday, the number of hospitalizations were lower than the county’s peak.

“Our thoughts and prayers are also there for the 75 individuals today that are in the hospital for symptoms related to COVID,” Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas said.

Over the last week, local officials have directed more funding toward relief for businesses and tenants. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved another $5 million for the county’s business assistance program, making for a total of $15 million in available funds for struggling employers.

Officials also approved another $1.2 million in funding for the county’s rental assistance program, which will now offer $11.2 million in total funds. The relief for tenants is available for up to three months, Ventura County CEO Mike Powers said.

The county is also working to better monitor the spread of the virus with a “fifth mega testing site” at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, said Patrick Maynard, director of the Office of Emergency Services.

Beginning Aug. 10, a 20,000-square foot building at the 63-acre lot will host testing of up to 1,500 people a day, Maynard said.

Currently, all of the drive-thru testing sites across the county collect testing samples from around 1,500 to 2,100 people a day, according to Maynard. He estimates “a couple hundred” more tests come from private clinics and hospitals outside those sites.

Maynard said demand for testing peaked during the week leading up to the Fourth of July.

“We have witnessed some long lines, and some extended wait times at many of our sites,” Maynard told reporters during a press conference Wednesday. “We understand the frustration and anxiety these circumstances may caused you over the past two weeks.”

Over the past week, the county expanded two of its largest testing sites — at Oxnard and Moorpark Colleges — from three lanes to six lanes, Maynard said. He said that has helped reduce lines since the spike in demand for testing earlier this month.

However, the testing site at the Ventura County Fairgrounds will not be a drive-thru, Maynard said.

“As we get closer into September, October, November, we start to see that heat come up,” Maynard said. “It’s very tiring for the people that are out there administering the test, and in personal protective equipment, to be outside in those conditions for a long period of time.”

He said the testing site will allow people to wait inside their cars if necessary along with infection control measures like frequent disinfecting of staffers and their equipment.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect number of additional cases reported since last week. The post has been updated.

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