Ventura County officials on Tuesday raised concern that residents were not taking social distancing efforts seriously, as health leaders warned the spread of the coronavirus would continue without such measures.
The county’s latest numbers show 126 confirmed cases, 17 more than the previous count and double what was reported late last week. The total includes 16 people who have recovered, 28 who were hospitalized and 106 instances of those actively quarantined.
The death toll remains at four, all of whom people who were in their 70s or 80s with preexisting conditions.
At a county Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning, Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas said that while it’s unlikely the region will face a massive death toll like New York, he warned that at least two cases could become fatal, and that number is likely to increase.
“There’s probably going to be more — a lot more, in fact,” he said.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin warned that the 17-case daily increase may seem small compared to what the county could see in the coming weeks. As many as 1,000 deaths are possible if social distancing measures aren’t taken seriously, he warned.
Ventura County has tested 2,213 people for the coronavirus, adding hundreds of new tests through multiple efforts, including drive-through sites, private labs and a public health lab. Residents need a referral from a doctor before being tested.
It also is releasing information on how the infections occurred. While 67 cases are still under investigation, 27 people were infected by someone in the community, and seven were travel-related. Twenty-five people acquired the virus from someone who had already tested positive.
County officials are looking for ways to enforce social distancing, which may be helping the state slow the spread of the virus. The county has secured four motels to house as many as 300 people who are homeless and at high risk because of their age or preexisiting health problems, said Tara Carruth, manager of the Ventura County Continuum of Care.
At Tuesday’s meeting, officials said county parks would close by the end of the day. People at campgrounds will have until Friday to clear out, but authorities said they would consider situations where mobile homes are permanent residences.
“There’s still a lot of clustering in the parks,” County Executive Officer Michael Powers said. “We have to do everything we can. These next four to five weeks are critical.”
The board also brought up a letter authored by three Ventura County doctors who urged the public to stay at home and maintain social distancing.
In a worst-case scenario, without taking measures to stop the spread, the doctors said the county could need 18,000 ventilators for critically ill patients. Currently, there are only 180 across eight hospitals.
But if residents stay home, healthcare officials said, the risk of overwhelming the county’s health system will be greatly reduced.
“After weeks of sheltering in place,” they wrote, “if we see that nothing much has happened, that’s when we’ll know that our sacrifice made all the difference.”