With new health order, Ventura County says businesses could face fines for staying open

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Non-essential businesses in Ventura County that remain open in violation of COVID-19 restrictions may face fines, health officials said Tuesday.

Robert Levin, the county’s health officer, issued a new order that extends restrictions to April 19 and explicitly states non-essential businesses may be subject to “liability under the state’s unfair competition law as well as other civil and criminal penalties.”

Those who break the unfair competition law can face fines of up to $2,500 for each violation and $6,000 when the law has been violated “intentionally,” according to state government guidelines. The penalties can be introduced through civil action by local prosecutors or some city and county attorneys.

As the county cracked down on businesses, health officials reported another 23 cases of the novel coronavirus — a total of 149 infections have surfaced. Five people have died from the virus and 117 remain under quarantine after testing positive, health officials said. Across the county, 2,987 people have been tested as of Tuesday.

Non-essential businesses in Ventura County subject to closure include those not involved in the distribution of food, health care, medications or other services defined by state health officials as “essential.”

Essential businesses include banks, pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores and laundromats among others providing basic needs, according to the California Department of Public Health.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened non-essential businesses with power shutoffs if they continue to operate in violation of the city’s own health order.

Meanwhile, earlier this month in Orange County, officials tried to ease the concerns of businesses worried they would have to close because of COVID-19 concerns.

“Orange County is not shut down for business,” County Supervisor Don Wagner said at the time. “Don’t turn away your business.”

Ventura County’s new health order also requires restaurants and other eateries to put takeout food in sealed containers, prevents facilities such as nursing homes from rejecting people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and prohibits the operations of communal pools, campgrounds and RV parks.

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