The Dec. 14 County of Ventura press conference opened with Dr. Robert Levin discussing the hopeful prospects of the newly released COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine was be delivered to the county on Tuesday, 15 December 2020 and distributed to hospitals from Wednesday through Friday. Levin said healthcare workers will be prioritized as they have “the highest risk for getting this infection.”

Levin went on to thank the county government, Board of Supervisors and law enforcement for their unwavering support—however he pointed out community activities that didn’t follow the state’s stay-at-home order. Over the weekend, football and baseball tournaments were reported within the county. Hundreds were seen “shoulder to shoulder” at The Oaks mall and hundreds more gathered to sing Christmas songs together. Levin also stated he’s heard reports of parties with 40-100 people in attendance, many with out masks on.

“A very few churches hold indoor services saying this is constitutionally protected. Young people party or get out of their cars at driving concerts, basically because they’re at the age when they’re looking to pair up,” Levin said. “But none of these justifications are acceptable in the face of the pandemic. We all need to be working together. Just like we would fight any war.”

On Dec. 14, 2651 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in Ventura County—the total of last week alone was 2400. Levin said the current surge of cases in the county is so great that 1 in every 10 COVID-19 tests are positive. There are 204 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 49 cases are now in the Intensive Care Unit. In addition, Levin announced the county is seeing surges of cases in businesses and long-term care facilities.
“One of my daughter’s works at a hospital up in Sacramento. She told me, I look around the hospital and these aren’t just old people that are sick and dying. These are young people like me. It’s heartbreaking,” Levin said.

Levin said Ventura County could stop the surge if residents made staying at home their first option—Dr. Mark Lepore echoed Levin’s message.
Lepore, hospitalist, ICU and Family Physician for the Ventura County Medical Center said he’s worked in the ICU for the last week. Lepore said he speaks for himself and his colleagues when he said he’s “exhausted.”

When it comes to caring for COVID-19 patients, he said it’s most difficult to watch people die without saying goodbye to their loved ones. Since symptoms may not develop for days, Lepore called the virus “slow and insidious.”

“We’ve had some really great successes so far, and I’m trying to focus on those but we also have had some real awful challenges and we’ve had to tell family members that their loved ones are not coming home and it’s awful,” Lepore said.
He warned that hospitals, public and private, have hit or will hit capacity soon—he said “hitting capacity” means patients will walk into a hospital with no rooms and no doctors available to assist.

Barry Zimmernan, Chief Deputy Director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency, emphasized that the priority for COVID-19 testing is for those experiencing symptoms or who were directly exposed. Zimmerman explained the surge in cases has resulted in limited resources within the county.
“Just five weeks ago, we were running tests on a weekly basis around 7000 per week. For the last four weeks, we’ve been nearly up around 20,000 tests a week. And that volume has maximized our system and stretched it thin,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman admitted that the county has seen delays and constraints in supply chains and consequently have faced lack of supplies. This has impacted the county’s ability to perform COVID-19 tests—he said residents shouldn’t expect the results of a test within 24 hours.
As Zimmerman and the county work to obtain more supplies and testing, he urged residents to remain patient, diligent and stay at home.

By Gabriela Miranda