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Ventura County passes 6,000 positive coronavirus tests as outbreak hits nursing facility

A microscopic image of the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2
The coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19, is shown in a microscopic image.
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Ventura County has hit a new milestone in its pandemic struggle.

The 94 new positive coronavirus tests reported Wednesday pushed the county’s total past 6,000, county health officials said. Ventura County added 107 new cases Thursday for a total of 6,156.

Steve Carroll, administrator of the Ventura County Emergency Medical Services Agency, reported that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has quadrupled in the last six weeks. Over the last few days, figures have stabilized, but the high volume of patients still takes up many resources in Ventura’s hospitals, he said.

“It requires additional personnel, additional isolation rooms and also additional protective equipment,” Carroll said, adding that the county is in position to handle the higher demand and is not using hospital surge space.

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Rigo Vargas, director of the county’s public health department, said 90 COVID-positive county residents are hospitalized because of symptoms. An additional 30 patients await test results but are expected to have the coronavirus. Twenty-two patients are in intensive care, Vargas said.

“Our numbers have increased in the past few weeks. Today it’s on the positive side. Today it’s coming down,” he said.

Vargas also reported one new death Wednesday, bringing the county’s total to 63. None were reported Thursday.

Ventura’s increased case count puts people living and working in long-term care facilities at risk, emergency preparedness specialist Janelle Hahn said.

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“The community spread is still a threat to our long-term care facilities,” she said.

Hahn said the county will keep its tight restrictions on long-term care facility visits in place, even as state health authorities offer their own guidelines. Ventura County Executive Officer Mike Powers called long-term care facilities the “epicenter of coronavirus cases here in Ventura County.”

On Wednesday, the Ventura County Star reported a growing coronavirus outbreak at Victoria Care Center. The facility reported an outbreak among residents and staff in a letter to residents and those close to them Tuesday. At least 31 people — 10 staffers and 21 residents — have tested positive for the coronavirus.

In response, the facility is testing all residents and employees, the Star reported. The facility cares for nearly 170 people and employs almost 290.

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Victoria Care Center administrators did not respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday. The facility experienced a small outbreak in May, when three residents and two employees tested positive, the Star reported.

Ventura County remains on the state’s monitoring list because of its high rate of disease transmission, epidemiologist Erin Slack said. Counties on the list face additional state restrictions, including school closures.

“In order to meet the state threshold of less than 100 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days, we would have to report less than 60 cases per day,” Slack said.

Ventura County has had an average of 243.6 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days.

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Along with reported positives, testing has shot up throughout the county. Powers said tests surged from 1,500 a week two months ago to between 10,000 and 15,000 a week now. The county is also processing tests more quickly, he said.

According to Ventura County public health officials, 100,289 residents have now been tested for the coronavirus.

“That’s about 12% of Ventura County residents that have now gotten tested,” Vargas said. “Clearly, this speaks to the increased capacity that we have in Ventura County for testing.”

Powers encouraged community support in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

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“With these efforts, with wearing masks and not gathering, we are going to drive these numbers back down. We’re already seeing them level off a bit,” he said. “Today’s numbers were better, but it’s not one day that matters, it’s the trend. But we are going to bring these numbers down.”


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