Ventura County Returns To Lockdown Due To Rising COVID-19 Cases

With California COVID-19 cases spiking to 30,000 per day, Governor Gavin Newsom has brandished a new weapon in the ongoing battle against the pandemic: a Regional Stay-At-Home order. This legislation, one of the strictest across America, groups California counties into “regions,” with Ventura County falling into the Southern California region. When a region’s intensive care unit (ICU) capacity falls below 15%, the order is automatically applied, the reasoning being that a region without sufficient health care capabilities would be overwhelmed in the event of a COVID outbreak. As of Sunday, the Southern California region has fallen below the 15% margin, meaning that Camarillo residents are now forbidden from dining at restaurants, attending social gatherings, even outdoors; patronizing barbershops, salons, bars, or wineries; and leaving the house without wearing a mask, among other restrictions.

The stay-at-home order immediately proved polarizing. “[I]f we do not act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom claimed; his concerns were justified by White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, who stated that California officials “really do not have a choice.” Others, such as California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, derided the order as “absurd,” criticizing Newsom’s consolidation of counties into regions. Cunningham, a Republican representing San Luis Obispo, explained, “[W]e are 220 miles away from Los Angeles,” one of the most affected areas. “And we are geographically isolated and we have no problem… with overfilled ICU beds.”

Were the order based on the needs of individual counties rather than vast regions, Camarillo would not be affected: Ventura County retains 54% unused ICU capacity. According to guidelines from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Harvard Global Health Institute, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Camarillo residents should still be permitted to dine outdoors and participate in physical gatherings of no more than twenty-five people, freedoms which have been revoked under Newsom’s order.

Many entrepreneurs have also been vocal opponents of the order. California small businesses have struggled to stay afloat all year, with the number of enterprises within the state which have permanently closed reaching 19,000 just by September. Some, like nearby Agoura Hills restaurant Cronies Sports Bar, announced their intention to continue operating in spite of government mandates, citing an unwillingness to lay off employees so near to the holiday season. Cronies has now been deprived of its health permit, meaning it will not be able to operate at all. Others have alleged hypocrisy by the state government: in a video which has now gone viral, restaurateur Angela Marsden decried the irony of Hollywood actors being permitted to dine together outdoors while her own outdoor patio was shut down, stating, “I have two employees that have lost people that are close to them to suicide in the last two months. I have a bartender sleeping on a couch, one with a 3-year-old who can not pay her rent and can not get a job, and I just hired her because we have gotten busy in October. She had two weeks of training, and then was laid off again from her third job.” Newsom himself was accused of hypocrisy, as in early November, he attended a friend’s dinner party after urging his constituents to remain at home.

To those lambasting his order and despairing at the thought of more draconian measures, the Governor has offered his reassurances, tweeting, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine is coming. We can do this.”