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California

Ventura County reports additional coronavirus death, adds new cases

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In downtown Ventura, most of the businesses are closed down as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura County reported its sixth coronavirus-related death this week, less than two weeks after the county reported the first fatality.

The person, like most of the others who have died from COVID-19 in the county, was in his or her 70s and suffered from preexisting health conditions, county spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said. The first death was reported on March 22.

For the record:
3:49 PM, Apr. 06, 2020 A previous version of this story quoted McDougall’s attorney as saying they plan to appeal the decision. They plan to go forward with the case.

The county also reported 17 new cases in a day, bringing the total to 177. Of those, it includes 36 cases where someone recovered, and 135 people under active quarantine.

The county is also tracking how people were infected. Most are still under investigation, but 38 people became sick after being near someone who tested positive, and 37 people contracted the virus somewhere in the community. Nine cases were travel-related, the county said. So far, 3,367 people in the county have been tested for COVID-19.

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Local health officials have put out constant messages to the community, reminding them to self-quarantine, limit travel, and if they have to go out, to stay 6 feet away from each other. The county, which issued a stay-at-home order in March, placed further restrictions this week on essential businesses that included limits on what they can sell and how food is packaged.

County officials are also scrambling to adapt to ever-shifting circumstances created by the pandemic. On Thursday, Dr. Robert Levin, the county public health officer, reversed a previous position on residents wearing face masks in public.

In a statement, he said there is building evidence that wearing a mask may decrease the chances of a person who is asymptomatic, or not showing signs of the illness, from spreading the virus. He now supports those who choose to wear one in public.

“I don’t think everyone must do so, but I look upon those who do as making a responsible decision. I never thought I’d say that,” he said in a statement.

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Members of the public should use homemade masks to avoid exacerbating the shortage of personal protective equipment, he said. The statement came out on the same day that the White House announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would amend its no-mask stance.

‘We may be moving gently at this point toward the Asian culture,’ one health expert says of everyday mask-wearing.

At least one county resident has expressed issue with the county’s stay-at-home directive.

Camarillo resident Donald McDougall didn’t agree with the county’s order that labeled gun stores as nonessential and forced them to close. In March, the gun instructor filed a temporary restraining order against the county, stating that the closure violated his 2nd Amendment right by depriving him of picking up a gun he had already purchased.

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The county argued that the burden placed on residents wishing to buy a gun was minimal and outweighed by the public interest to stop the spread of COVID-19. On Wednesday, a federal judge agreed with the county and denied McDougall’s request.

The order “does not specifically target handgun ownership, does not prohibit the ownership of a handgun outright, and is temporary,” federal Judge Consuelo B. Marshall wrote. The decision was first reported by the Ventura County Star.

McDougall’s attorney said on Friday that they plan to appeal the decision.

“They’re just making an excuse to close gun stores,” said Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy, who is representing him. “I think once this gets to a higher court, the court’s going to agree this is too stringent on Ventura County residents.”

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County counsel Leroy Smith said the county’s directive doesn’t restrict a person’s right to own a gun, the same way a shuttered bookstore doesn’t violate a person’s 1st Amendment right.

There is no constitutional right to have a gun shop, he said.

“We’re not singling out gun shops, we’re just enforcing the order,” he said. “And we don’t think there’s any 2nd Amendment right that would trump the health order.”


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