Ventura County suffers first COVID deathFree Access

Deceased was in their 70s, had prior conditions, public health says


GETTING CHECKED—Nurse Annette Chavez checks a patient for COVID-19 at one of seven drive-through testing locations in Ventura County. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

An individual in their 70s with underlying health conditions is the first Ventura County resident to die from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, county public health announced today.

The latest COVID-19 figures from Ventura County Public Health as of 5 p.m. March 22. The total number of cases has risen from 27 to 30, including 10 cases in Simi Valley and five in Thousand Oaks.

The announcement comes as the total of number of confirmed COVID cases in the county reached 30, according to figures provided by Ventura County Public Health. Those infected include 13 persons between the ages of 45 and 64, nine 65 and older, five between 25 and 44 and three 24 and under, the county said.

No other details about the person who died were provided by the county.

“Public health extends our deepest condolences to the individual’s loved ones in the wake of this tragedy,” Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin said in a statement.

Around 603 people have been tested for the virus, according VCPH, a figure that includes samples tested at the county lab and those tested at private labs. The county has said it hopes to ramp up testing as more supplies become available in the coming days.

Along with news of the fatality came a warning from Levin that seemed aimed at those persons failing to heed his recent stay-home order, which banned all non-essential travel through April 20.

“In these uncertain times, one thing is clear; the spread of COVID-19 is broad. Everyone should assume that anyone can have COVID-19, and anyone could unintentionally infect others,” Levin said. “Therefore, we are imploring everyone who can, to stay home and stay safe.”

Earlier in the day, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which controls 75,000 acres of parkland, mostly in Los Angeles County, announced it was shuttering all of its parks due to overcrowding and the failure of hikers to abide social-distancing mandates, that is to say, stay 6 feet apart and not be groups larger than 10. See a list of MRCA parks here.

Current orders from the state and from L.A. and Ventura counties do permit leaving the house for exercise, provided people keep their distance. But as large crowds are reported at local beaches and trailheads, many cities and agencies are feeling the pressure to act.

“We take the health and safety of our visitors seriously, it is with a heavy heart we come to this decision,” the MRCA said through its official Twitter account. “Let’s get through this and we’ll celebrate with hikes when it’s safe to do so again.”

As of Sunday evening, there was no word if similar orders would be issued by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (National Park Service) and/or the Conejo Open Space Conservation Authority, which together control the bulk of the Conejo Valley’s open space.

Conejo Rec and Park District General Manager Jim Friedl said COSCA would likely wait for an order from state or county public health before making the call to close hiking trails, which many are using as an outlet to escape home confinement. Large crowds were reported at COSCA-controlled Wildwood Regional Park and NPS-controlled Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa today.

“We don’t want to close trails,” Friedl told the Acorn. “I personally believe the public just has to get used to the idea of social distancing while walking.”

Friedl said COSCA was looking at putting up signs to remind the public to stay 6 feet apart while using all trails and trailheads.

For the latest COVID-19 figures and information, go to vcemergency.com

Reporter Dawn Megli contributed to this article.