By George Miller
Ventura County just announced that it is dropping lawsuits against the remaining five businesses which had resisted COVID lockdown restrictions. BUT, not churches as we learned today from a VC church.
Per Emily Gardner, Principal Assistant County Counsel, the businesses are:
The 5 most recently dismissed cases involved the following businesses:
The Original Pizza Cookery
Oxnard Bootcamp LLC (referred to as Colosseum Bootcamp)
House of Gains Gym, Inc. (referred to as House of Gains)
Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut
Westlake Fitness LLC (referred to as Anytime Fitness Westlake)
The previously dismissed cases involved the following businesses:
Endo Fitness TO LLC (refers to 5 Fitness 19 franchises located in Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Simi Valley, Camarillo, and Oxnard)
Anytime Power Partners 3 LLC (refers to two Anytime Fitness locations in Ventura)
Allison’s Country Café
Good Morning Café, Inc. (referred to as Good Morning Café)
WW Newbury LLC (referred to as Anytime Fitness Newbury Park)
Sohail Abdali (referred to as Anytime Fitness Simi Valley)
Camarillo ATF, Inc. (referred to as Anytime Fitness Camarillo)
Thousand Oaks Corporate Fitness, Inc. (referred to as Gold’s Gym Thousand Oaks)
Board of Supervisors, Chair Linda Parks stated, “The lawsuits were never meant to be punitive but rather to gain compliance with Public Health Orders. This act of goodwill is in concert with the loosening of indoor restrictions accompanying the county’s move into the red tier. We extend our deep appreciation and thanks to all businesses that have worked so hard and continue to work hard to keep their employees and customers safe from COVID by following public health guidelines. It’s crucial that all businesses follow the state-issued guidance so that we can all continue to move forward. We want to make sure we all work together to protect lives and to continue reopening our County.”
A press release today confirmed that and added this:
Business support has always been the goal of COVID-19 response efforts in our County. A one-of-a-kind in the state business ambassador program was launched early in 2020 to help businesses understand COVID safety protocols and help them identify ways to safely stay open. Unfortunately, an extremely few number of businesses refused to close indoor operations in accordance with state public health orders during the recent surge and at a time when death tolls were increasing, infections were skyrocketing and hospitals were overflowing with severely ill COVID patients.
One might think via their innuendo that they were blaming the five businesses for the surge of “cases” and not truly massive numbers of people in close proximity.
Barbara Kepner, co-owner of Pizza Cookery in Thousand Oaks, a major area opponent of business closures, stated regarding the County’s move to drop the lawsuits:
“They made the right decision but not out of the goodness of their hearts.
Because they knew the law and the science was on our side.”
Deborah Baber Savalla, head of B.R.A.V.E. (Businesses Representing American Values & Enterprises( https://www.bravepma.org/ ) said the suits were dropped at least in part because:
- Active recall work against Linda Parks, to be followed by 3 other Supervisors.
- Formation of B.R.A.V.E. with member ship now exceeding 100 angry and aggrieved members, including the defendants.
- County Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin had written a 9 page anti-mask paper, co-signed by 5 medical professionals. He later pivoted 180 degrees on this when the climate changed (she thinks about May or June, 2020).
- Attorney (and former Congressional candidate) Ronda Baldwin Kennedy obtained a court ruling to depose Dr. Robert Levin and Board of Supervisors members on the lawsuits. Dropping the suits makes this moot.
She added that County press releases trumpeted the “ambassador” program to help companies navigate the COVID crisis. She claims that the $120 million given the County was contingent upon their enforcement of the stringent lockdown restrictions she says are unreasonable and in violation of the California and US Constitutions. She says this was “a huge error in exceeding their authority and that they should be acting on behalf of Ventura County residents, not Sacramento…. They abdicated to the Governor … prostituted all Ventura County residents to close a budget gap.”
State vs Church
Particularly galling to some houses of worship/people of faith is that things like pot shops, strip joints, most retail stores and abortion mills are considered essential but churches are not. Ventura has gone after the most visible churches which did not close.
We noticed that churches were conspicuously NOT mentioned in any of the county correspondence about dropping lawsuits. Our inquiry to the county has, so far, been unanswered, but Senior Pastor Rob McCoy of Calvary Godspeak Church in Thousand Oaks and former Mayor and Councilman of that city confirmed this.
When I read him Linda Parks’ statement he responded:
“She doesn’t care about the church or need for the church in the community.”
He added that they are enforcing their rules for the sake of forcing people to comply and that it was arbitrary.
“They’re still coming after us. Every day emphasizes that they have overreached.”
A recall petition against Linda Parks is being circulated. Three other Supervisors may undergo similar action.
Godspeak has taken some precautions, including sanitizing, attendee advice for screening and even filtering and UV treatment of the air in the church, but ignored some of the directives, including social distancing. So far there is no evidence of a higher occurrence of COVID-19 illness or deaths attributable to the church, we are told.
Many church members/clergy believe that churches have been unfairly targeted. This is by no means unanimous, since most churches have complied with the directives.
On the other hand, according to the county, it is doing what it thinks is right to help reduce infection, disease and death. These are also state directives passed down to the local level.
McCoy additionally believes that classifying all hospitalizations and deaths that also test positive with COVID-19 is misleading, at best. Until a couple of months ago, deaths with co-morbidities were highlighted and it was the vast majority of them. This raised questions about what the role of the COVID-19 infection was in the deaths. We have not been able to get a satisfactory answer to that question, though we have posed it to Dr. Levin and County CEO Mike Powers along with the Supervisors. The county is no longer reporting co-morbidities and is not saying why. This has raised even more questions.
It’s also notable that reported flu and pneumonia cases are radically down, suggesting that maybe many of the COVID cases have been misdiagnosed. The reports of high false positives are refuted with claims that the testing method in use (PCR) is highly accurate. There have been 1.2 million tests in Ventura County which has only 850,000 residents. We also read claims that excessive test cycles lead to more false positives and that test directives were revied right after the election were reduce. We don’t know if or how this affected VC testing, but the national case rate dive right after that can’t be explained solely by vaccinations.
While all this has been occurring, Calvary Godspeak’s attendance and donations have skyrocketed.
Announcements on COVID-19 have been copious and mostly informing. If this big news was even mentioned at today’s County COVID-19 press conference, I didn’t hear it,
I spoke to Emily Gardner, Principal Assistant County Counsel, the late afternoon of 3-17-21. She supplied us with the names of the 5 businesses that the litigation was dropped against and others who were sued and later complied (appears earlier in this article. She said that they were primarily gyms and restaurants, She repeated the goodwill reasons and said the County hopes they will comply with the new less stringent (“Red Tier”) requirements. She stated that the County is only requiring compliance with state requirements and has no additional ones of their own.
When I asked if the County was dropping the church lawsuits, she said no, those were not included in that tranche of suits. I asked what impediments exist to dropping it. She replied that the church (Calvary Chapel Godspeak Thousand Oaks) has filed a cross complain against the County and the state and that removal of the county suit would not remove that complaint. I asked if a mutual agreement to drop suits would work and she said yea, I did not interpret that as a commitment, but, rather, a possibility.
CEO and CIO
Specific queries for this story directed to CEO Mike Powers’ Office were redirected to Information Officer Ashley Bautista. We received this response:
The names of the 5 businesses are as follows:
House of Gains Gym, Inc.
Oxnard Bootcamp LLC Mrs. Olson’s Coffee Hut
The Original Pizza Cookery
Westlake Fitness LLC
One church filed a cross-complaint against the County. Once the court issues an order on that the state and county will have 30 days to respond.
There are no other cases.
Guidance for businesses can be found on the State’s website: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/.
We have some peripherally-related questions still open and will report if and when answers are received.
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.