VC Open for Business- Companies Scramble to Reopen- 2500+ Businesses Affected; Protests Continue

— Reopening Phase 2 Rolled Out- 187 Companies in Initial Hours,- 2500+ Affected, but There Are 28,000 VC Businesses

— Protesters: Not Good Enough- “Fire Levin, Newsom”, “Fully Open CA/VC”

— County Says is Lobbying the State to Modify, Soften, But Enforces to the Letter


By George Miller

Ventura, CA- 5-9-20- Ventura County CEO Michael Powers had informed me that the County would quickly react to the CA state Phase 2 reopening authorization- and they sure did. They got their updated order out pronto and 187 companies had already applied by 3 pm on day one, with 2500+ companies affected by the order, he said. He said that businessmen are very aggressive and determined to reopen as soon as they can and that the county is ready to assist.

Lockdown protester at Ventura County Govt. Center

Phase 2- What’s reopening: retail-curbside service  (“essential” retail was already mostly open), logistics, manufacturing, museums

Later in Phase 2– relax retail restrictions, restaurant seating (Per Powers), adapt and open schools, child care, offices.

Phase 3- Adapt and reopen movie theaters, religious institutions, and more personal services/hospitality

Already Open- Essentials, such as essential retail/logistics/manufacturing, utilities, transportation, hotels, public safety, construction, bike shops, car dealers, golf, most health care (except elective/non-emergency), were never closed. Beaches were “soft open” (no parking, amenities, sunbathing, sitting, picnicking) (Ventura, Port Hueneme initially closed) (south beaches down to LA County line closed).

Phase 4- Reopen areas of highest risk- Concerts, conventions, sports arenas, etc.

Powers told me that the bar is very high for progress beyond now,. For example, he said the state told them they would have to do 1350 tests/day and have no COVID-19 deaths for 14 days before moving to advanced Phase 2 activities. He thinks that will be relaxed somewhat.

With the economy now on life support, there is enormous pressure to reopen business and society, from more and more quarters. Ventura County’s relative success is being used as a reason to justify that. But County officials are deeply worried about a COVID-19 resurgence if rules are eased and people get lax. They are also deeply concerned (per Levin and Powers) about being directly adjacent to the largest, most infection-prone county in the state and a resumption of all that cross traffic, which may accelerate the rate of infections, serious illness and deaths again. With only 19 deaths out of 850,000 population and infections on a downtrend, VC is in a much better position than most of the state, but certainly far better than NY/NJ- and it wants to stay that way and improve.

Earlier Friday we published the County’s order and application for phase 2 business reopening. It’s important for businesses to realize that they must only fill out the application honestly and completely and prepare a safety plan. As soon as they reach compliance they can just open, subject to spot inspections. Businesses already opn must submit a safety plan by May 18. Powers informed me that County personnel have been meeting with business owners/management to discuss how to achieve safety requirements. He said that the County and businesses have been attempting to anticipate state requirements so as to be all ready as new phases are rolled out.

The County actually extended the “stay at home order” to May 31, but there are a lot more exceptions now. A tour of the harbor and beaches from offshore on Friday revealed that many people have unilaterally revoked the stay at home order and even social distancing. Driving around the County government center and surrounding neighborhoods/malls on Saturday revealed that many people are out and about, driving, shopping, and of course, protesting.

But, many businesses are still closed, or badly hobbled by the lockdown/stay at home orders. I asked Powers how many businesses are there in the County. He said there are (or at least there were) around 28,000. I included some relevant charts from the 2019 VC Economic Development Collaborative report he gave me (below) to give you a better idea of jobs and dollars by industry in the county, so you can better understand the impact of the lockdown and subsequent reopening might have:

Lockdown protests have occurred at the County Government Center weekly for the last three weeks, coordinated with events in other CA cities. A peak of over 1000 people participated last week in the county, on foot and in cars. We have been reporting on those separately.

We saw signs criticizing the state/county measures, including strong attacks on Governor Newsom and even County Health Officer Dr. Mark Levin, an obscure 4th level county healthcare bureaucrat assigned to be point man for dealing with the pandemic countywide, who was catapulted to national notoriety last week because of what he later admitted were his “imprecise words” about quarantining and isolation procedures. Critics interpreted his words as mandatory removal of people and separating from their families for isolation. He quickly clarified that wasn’t the case. Unlike the three rural counties that reopened in defiance of state orders (although they claimed safely), Ventura County has adhered to or ordered even more stringent measures than state orders called for.

Gov. Newsom, Supervisors and even the health dept. came under fire. Financial Planner and GOP official Jon Andersen carried the message.

 

Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin became a lightning rod for criticism and ended up on national news and talk shows.

The deliberate, methodical, even plodding, pace that the state approach results in means that the economy will remain stalled longer and critics are frantic to accelerate this. The question is, how much safety is that buying us? County Health Officer Dr. Mark Levin suggested to me last week that the lockdown/safety procedures explain why actual cases and deaths have been so much lower than the 1 to 2 million deaths predicted early. Many disagree that it was ever that severe and that the predictive models were flawed. But it’s hard to dispute that the measures have helped, but many believe that the economic and social impact of government actions is worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. National unemployment is already higher than in the Great Depression.

We have been asked about firm dates for relaxing lockdowns. There are none. Instead, they are based upon numbers and some objective evaluation. Number of cases, deaths, tests, compliance in place, are the criteria. The county had to qualify for its phase 2 rollout. Some of the rules changes and what is included in each phase are negotiable.

For example, beaches went from closed to open to maybe closed again, then reversed. When deceptive pictures were published with claims that 40,000 people mobbed Newport Beach a few weeks ago, Gov. Newsom was poised to close the beaches again. Mr. Powers said he believes County personnel helped head that off. But even now, you can go to the beaches, but you just can’t park, use restrooms, playgrounds, sit, sunbathe, bring blankets, coolers or umbrellas. Also, keep moving or police or County Mounties will move you along or out.

Business Safe Standards

VC Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin told me that Development Director [email protected] is responsible for working out safe standards for each industry, which are constrained by state requirements and existing local ordinances. Powers informed us that county officials were in contact or visited 2700 restaurants in the last six weeks.

Many people are concerned about potential violations of privacy and even forcible removal of people and separation from their families as a result of widespread contact tracing and testing. In particular, they were upset about US House Resolution 6666 and CA  AB 262, as legislation which would overdo that. But many others are not worried about it and even welcome an intense, if intrusive,  regimen to help stop the pandemic.

Protester objects to the perversely numbered HR 6666 $100,000,000,000 (yeah billions) ANNUAL bill now in Congress.

Businesses Opening Up

We saw numerous restaurants open for takeout service on Saturday afternoon in Ventura and Oxnard. The parking lot at the Ralph’s mall on Victoria near Trader Joe’s was nearly full. Long lines snaked outside of some restaurants and a cake shop we saw. Other restaurants had people streaming in for takeout service. Florists were open in time for Mother’s Day but maybe not to obtain enough flowers and promote themselves.

Next week, we should see an increasing number of other retailers partially opening up- but curbside service only leaves a lot to be desired. Some companies will use that in conjunction of credit card sales and informative web sites with product catalogs.

CEO Powers said that lots of companies will be making changes for compliance, in layout, procedures, even equipment. He said social distancing flow and lines, masks and  plexiglass partitions are just a few such things. Supply chain and manufacturing companies may need to make layout, scheduled and shift changes to meet safety standards. We discussed whether some of those exchanges may make sense to be kept after the pandemic, since there are other nasty diseases to worry about and future pandemics may occur.

He suggested that restaurant seating and M.O. will have to change significantly, with more spacing, resulting in much less seating per square foot.  He was not sure how economically viable this would be. Longer hours, moving tables faster, promoting takeout and more outdoor seating more might help, too.

In response to my question, Powers said that churches/houses of worship won’t be open until phase III. Hundreds of churches statewide (500+ at last count) think otherwise and intend to open on Pentecost Sunday (May 31). That should be interesting, One of the ringleaders of that movement, Senior Pastor Rob McCoy of Calvary Chapel Godspeak/Thousand Oaks, did a trial opening under full CDC guidelines for an Easter Communion, service, but has been strictly online since then, but plans a grand reopening on May 31. which is also when the extended lockdown stay at home order expires.

We understand that Native-American owned casinos plan to open, with or without an order. Since they are technically a nation within a nation, there are some legal questions way beyond the scope of this article.

Our original understanding  was that phase 4 would require some type of treatments in place. But last week, the Governor said that vaccines would be required before the state could back to normal. Even if one was approved to go into trials/testing today, it could be at least a year before it was deployed. Some experts says that a vaccine might never be available, as in the case of AIDS, SARS and more. Some promising existing medicines are being held up by red tape, trials requirements, even by politics, in the case of some deployed that have shown field results.

No one seems to know how effective so-called “herd immunity” to COVID-19 might be. That happens when enough people develop immunity by being infected then defeating it, or being inoculated with antibodies/vaccine. Antibody testing and “plasma banking will begin shortly.  Dr. Levin says that at least 60% of the population must develop antibodies to begin to achieve herd immunity. But he estimates that only 4% of the population have done so. It is so low, in part, due to the success of stay at home, isolation, quarantining, social distancing and sanitation regimens widely instituted.

 


 

From a local political activist, Deborah Baber-Savall:

https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-retail.pdf

From VC Emergency Website; Emphasis is mine. Read between the lines!

“We recognize the impact of economic hardship. We must get our economy moving once again and put paychecks in people’s pockets. But the risk of COVID-19 infection is still real for all Californians and continues to be fatal.

That is why every business should take every step humanly possible to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Plan and prepare for re-opening
  • Make radical changes within the workplace
  • Adjust practices by employees and help educate customers“

Still Real and Fatal: Suggesting that anyone who argues against the draconian measures does so against “science” and imperils lives.

Radical: The list of changes is long AND a named employee MUST be registered for each shift as the responsible party who will assure the changes made are adhered to.

Adjust and Educate: Adjust employees thinking as recruits to re-educating the customer masses according to the State’s dictates!

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Safely Reopening Ventura County Business Registration

Safely Reopening Ventura County Business Registration

Complete Your Business Attestation Here Stage 2 Reopening The County of Ventura has reached an important turning point for our community, County and our local economy. We are now moving into Stage 2 of California’s roadmap to reopening where some lower-risk workplaces can gradually open with adaptations. This will allow retail businesses, such as clothing stores, bookstores, sporting goods stores […]

VC Reopens

California pastors vow to defy Gov. Newsom and reopen: ‘Churches are part of the answer not the problem

https://www.citizensjournal.us/california-pastors-vow-to-defy-gov-newsom-and-reopen-churches-are-part-of-the-answer-not-the-problem/
Community Memorial Health System to Reopen Inpatient and Outpatient Non-Emergent Surgical Procedures on May 11th

Extensive Safety Protocols in Place to Protect Patients and Staff


George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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One Response to VC Open for Business- Companies Scramble to Reopen- 2500+ Businesses Affected; Protests Continue

  1. William Hicks May 13, 2020 at 5:19 am

    I’m not sure about how “CURBSIDE” is interpreted by both the County and some Businesses. My experience with curbside left me less than excited. A Wild Bird Supply Business in Thousand Oaks requires all orders to be called in and they don’t accept cash; credit card only.

    If that’s the interpretation of “CURBSIDE,” then I’ll wait until I can enter the business with a mask and pay with cash; like I do at Albertsons.

    Reply

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