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Ventura County eases parts of its coronavirus stay-at-home order

John Dodson, 69, takes a walk to the Ventura Pier on Wednesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura County on Saturday modified its stay-at-home order to permit some businesses to reopen and some gatherings to take place for the first time since the restrictions were issued to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The county had reported 422 cases of COVID-19 and 13 related deaths as of Sunday. Thirty people were hospitalized, including nine in intensive care units.

“We are positioned to focus on the road to reopening because our residents and businesses have sacrificed so much to comply with the public health orders and slow the spread of the virus in our community,” Mike Powers, the county’s executive officer, said in a statement. “Our current situation is further strengthened by the work of our local hospitals to expand their capacity.”

The county’s modified order, which is in place through May 15, allows some businesses that don’t serve the public to operate using no more than 10 employees. Gatherings of up to five people are now permitted, as are gatherings in vehicles.

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Golf courses and bike shops can reopen, and in-person sales of vehicles are now permitted. Officials also reopened county-run parks at 5 p.m. Friday.

Coronavirus cases in California topped 30,000, with nearly 1,150 deaths, as officials said science would determine when they lifted restrictions.

Residents are still required to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing when visiting essential businesses. Leaving home to exercise is permitted, but gyms will remain closed.

Robert Levin, the county’s public health officer, said officials would scrutinize data trends over the next few weeks and make adjustments if they believed the spread of the virus was accelerating.

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In late March, he warned that the county could see as many as 1,000 deaths if social distancing measures weren’t taken seriously.

On Saturday, he indicated that things had changed for the better but said that it was still important to proceed carefully.

“The data is looking good, thanks to the diligence of our community members in following these orders, but we must be cautious in how we move forward,” Levin said in a statement.

The city of Port Hueneme said Saturday it was staging a “soft reopening” of Hueneme Beach. The beach, walkways and parking lot were open, but the pier, restrooms, street parking, playground and picnic areas remained closed.

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Beachgoers were asked to wear masks, adhere to social distancing guidelines, and visit only to exercise, not to hang out or socialize. Group gatherings remain banned.

“This is a pathway back to normal life, but we must self-regulate and respect these new limitations,” Port Hueneme Police Chief Andrew Salinas said in a statement.

San Francisco went mask crazy. Los Angeles shut down early and stayed closed longer, but not long enough. Some lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu.

He said officials could reinstate another beach closure if visitors failed to follow the guidelines.

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Parks and beaches run by the city of Ventura remained closed over the weekend, though the city said it would consider reopening them Monday after its City Council reviewed the county’s amended health order.

In the meantime, the Ventura Police Department assigned officers to high-traffic areas to enforce the restrictions after there was an influx of visitors to city-run parks and beaches Saturday afternoon, the city said.

The Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency said it also was reviewing the order and would provide an update on the status of its trails on Monday. Until then, they remained closed.


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