Ventura County records lower single-day increases in COVID-19 cases

Schools continue to prepare for live instruction as numbers improve


Ava Harris

Schools hurry to adapt to COVID-19 changes in Ventura County. The infographic above depicts the cautions and facts regarding COVID-19.

The county average for COVID-19 cases has lowered significantly since August, bringing Ventura County closer to being removed from the state watchlist, according to public health officials. 

Public Information Officer for the County of Ventura Ashley Bautista feels hopeful about coming off the state watchlist soon due to the fact that the county is meeting most of the state requirements. Ventura County still has one more requirement that needs to be met and is currently moving in the direction to meet it. 

 “The County of Ventura is on the [state] monitoring list, but the good news is that we are meeting the state requirements in five of the six areas. The area that we need to meet that we are not yet meeting is per 100 thousand people, the state requires 100 or less positive cases [in 14 days],” Bautista said. “Once we meet all six measures we would be off the monitoring list and that means that the state could possibly lift some restrictions.”

Recently, the State of California announced a new blueprint for COVID-19 guidelines. This blueprint consists of four tiers that contain different counties depending on the test positivity and adjusted case rate. The purple tier consists of the most restricted counties with the most cases, while yellow represents counties with minimal risk. In order for a county to move to a lower tier, it must meet the tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks. Ventura County is currently in the purple tier, however, the county is on the right track to moving to a lower tier. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, the county average was 155 cases per 100,000 residents. Over the past couple weeks, however, Ventura County has been gaining, on average, around 69 cases per 100,000 residents, less than before. On Sept. 15 there were 10 new cases, the lowest number of new cases observed in a single day so far. To move to the next tier, Ventura County must have less than seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents, as well as less than 8% positive tests for 21 days. 

“60 [new] cases a day, or less, would enable us to get off the state monitoring list. So the good news is that we are really close right now,” Bautista said. 

Near the end of August, the Ventura County Public Health Department announced that they have started accepting waivers for grade levels transitional kindergarten through sixth grade. These waivers can be requested by a superintendent if all of the guidelines are met. If approved, the waivers will grant permission for certain schools to reopen. As of Wednesday, Sept. 23, more than 25 schools in Ventura County have been approved to reopen.

“Now that the numbers are looking better, the public health officer [Dr. Robert Levin] and the public health team in concert with others decided that it would be a good opportunity to accept the waivers,” Bautista said.

It is still hard to tell if schools will return to in-person instruction. However, because of the decline, there is a significantly higher chance students could return. Safety considerations will still need to be taken into account.

“We don’t yet know if schools will choose to open in person or if they will continue online, but they do have that option to apply at this time,” Bautista said.

Oak Park Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Tony Knight explained that reopening Oak Park schools is more difficult than it may seem. 

“There’s not going to be a day where we just declare the school district open even in the hybrid model and everybody comes to school. It’s not going to happen in that kind of style at Oak Park,” Knight said. 

There are considerably fewer students at the OPUSD elementary schools than at Medea Creek Middle School and Oak Park High School, with approximately a 1:2:3 ratio, respectively. This calls for more planning and coordination when it comes to preparing the schools for in-person learning. 

“The expectation at this point is that the secondary schools will remain on Distance Learning through the remainder of the first semester, and we will evaluate the situation as we approach the second semester, which starts on Jan. 5,” Knight wrote in an email to parents and staff. 

Secondary schools are more difficult to open because all students have different schedules, as opposed to elementary school students having one teacher for all subjects. 

“It’s very difficult to meet the state requirements if not impossible with high school and middle school,” Knight said. “Secondary schools are our second priority right now.” 

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Stew McGugan believes Oak Park is moving in a good direction towards reopening schools. 

“We are currently working with our classified and certified unions, as well as the school board, on ideas of how we can move forward in the most effective manner,” McGugan wrote to the Talon.