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The lockdown is back.
A new stay-at-home order for the Southern California region was announced Saturday morning after COVID-19 cases surged in recent weeks. In Ventura County, the order will take effect late Sunday night, as 11:59 p.m. rolls over to midnight, officials said.
The state order followed a drop in capacity at hospital intensive care units. Officials had warned that if available beds dropped below 15% of capacity within any of the state’s five regions, the lockdown would be rolled out for that region. Capacity in Southern California dipped to 13.1% Friday, the California Department of Public Health reported.
The order requires closure of bars, wineries, nail and hair salons, barbershops and other personal care services, Ventura County officials said in a news release Saturday morning. Private gatherings with people outside one’s household are prohibited. Restaurants can operate for takeout and delivery, but indoor and outdoor dining is not allowed.
Stay-at-home order:With COVID-19 numbers up, Ventura County health official says action needed
Retail stores and shopping centers can stay open at 20% capacity.
Ventura County schools that opened while the county was in the purple tier can stay open, as can K-6 schools given a waiver to reopen, officials said.
Non-essential travel is temporarily restricted around the state, and hotels and motels are limited to housing guests traveling for an essential purpose.
The lockdown for the Southern California region — made up of 11 counties, including Ventura, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara — will be in place for at least three weeks, officials said. State officials on Saturday also ordered the San Joaquin Valley region into stay-at-home status, affecting a dozen counties, including Kern.
Ashley Bautista, spokeswoman for Ventura County, said the order will not be enforced until after 12:01 a.m. Monday.
Coronavirus cases have spiked in Ventura County in recent weeks, starting in late October, after declining from previous highs during July and early August. Those summer records have now been broken by the number of new infections and hospitalizations in recent reports.
Public health officials worry the hospital system could be overwhelmed by a wave of COVID-19 patients. Hospitalizations often lag the increase of positive tests by about two weeks, with ICU admissions and deaths later following the upward trend.
On Friday, a record 116 patients were hospitalized in Ventura County with complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Thirty-three of those people were being treated in an ICU. The county has recorded 188 deaths since the first case of the virus was reported in early March.
New infections have cropped up at sometimes alarming rates. On Friday, for example, 488 new cases were reported and some 4,445 residents with active coronavirus infections were under quarantine. Ventura County currently releases data only on weekdays.
Since Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving, the last report that week — until Friday, Ventura County reported 3,482 new infections, public health data shows.
Local physicians worry caseloads could spike further following Thanksgiving gatherings.
“We expect it to get worse in the next few weeks,” Dr. Raj Bhatia told The Star on Friday. Bhatia is critical care director at St. John’s hospitals in Camarillo and Oxnard, where intensive care units were already “very busy,” he said.
Statewide projections indicate the virus’ spread, if unmitigated, could fill California’s ICU beds to capacity by mid-December, authorities said this week.
The stay-at-home order is a modified version of the California’s initial lockdown rules issued in March.
As before, residents can go outside to hike, stroll the neighborhood, walk dogs and ride bikes while remaining socially distanced. Masks are required for most activities. Trips to doctors, dentists, pharmacies and grocery stores can continue. Churches can hold outdoor services. Political protesters can assemble outdoors.
Playgrounds will be closed and overnight stays at campgrounds prohibited. Movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums will shut along with cardrooms and amusement parks.
The closure orders are expected to devastate many restaurants and small businesses still trying to recover from the first pandemic shutdowns.
“I’m clear-eyed that this is hard on all of us — especially our small businesses who are struggling to get by,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a release Friday. “We are at a tipping point in our fight against the virus and we need to take decisive action now to prevent California’s hospital system from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks.”
Gretchen Wenner covers breaking news for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0270.
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