Dr. James Fortenberry, chief physician at Children̵
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Trick-or-treat is out this year. Haunted houses are not allowed. And pumpkin slicing parties must be virtual, according to new pandemic guidance from Ventura County Public Health.
Also in no column: Trunk-or-treat, which county officials explained happens when kids go car-to-car instead of door-to-door.
“It’s not allowed just because it can not be done in a way that is guaranteed to be safe,” said Dr. Robert Levin, the county’s public health officer, to the county regulators during their meeting Tuesday.
There is no way to assure that everyone would be wearing a mask, that food is not shared, and children do not end up together on porches, he said.
“Next year,” he said, “we will be able to get trick-or-treating again, but not this year.”
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People can have online parties and contests, car parades and decorate their yards and homes, according to the county’s Halloween guide released online Monday. Pumpkin patches will be open, and drive-in movie nights are also allowed.
When it comes to Halloween, however, no trick-or-treating can seem like a hard hit to some.
“I have kids. I have a lot of friends who have kids, and hearing that they really can’t do Halloween is hitting people pretty hard,” Supervisor Kelly Long said Tuesday.
She asked Levin if alternatives would be possible, such as in parks or trick-or-treat in restaurants or churches.
“People are trying to get some kind of normality here,” she said.
These are not normal times, Levin said, and trick-or-treating is an activity where the virus can spread.
“Admittedly, that’s a significant limitation,” he said. “I’m personally sorry. I have grandchildren and I would love to see them go out and fool or treat. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.”
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Labor Day wave?
Ventura County’s total number of coronavirus cases has reached nearly 11,700, including 10 new cases reported Tuesday. That is the lowest number of reported cases in a day since early June, according to Erin Slack, an epidemiologist with county public health.
While some numbers have fallen in recent weeks, the county said it is too early to say whether Labor Day weekend will bring a new wave.
The COVID 19s rose in early June after a Memorial Day weekend that coincided with newly opened restaurants and other businesses in Ventura County. So in mid-July, after Independence Day, things rose higher.
County officials had warned that rallies over Labor Day weekend could again lead to a sharp rise. Levin said Tuesday that any bump would likely start to show up over the next few days or so.
This week, California may also begin to loosen some restrictions on collections, according to Levin.
Guidance can enable gatherings up to a certain number of people, he said. But more likely, it will address the possibility of private gatherings of up to three different households, he said. If that happens, he says it would make the most sense for him if it were the same two or three households that came together for gatherings over time.
More: 16 additional inmates test positive for COVID-19 amid Ventura County jail outbreaks
County is seeking reopening of flexibility
When it comes to reopening, Ventura County and many others remain at the most restrictive level set by the state. But the county is sneaking closer to getting on a trail to dive down to the next level.
The state’s new reopening framework, announced in late August, required counties to reach standards in terms of the number of COVID cases for all residents and the rate at which people being tested come positive.
Ventura County has met the requirement of positivity, but has not yet done so with its rate. It should have no more than an average of seven new cases a day for 100,000 people. From the most recent reporting week, the county was 7.9 according to Vargas. These figures include an adjustment for a higher test percentage locally.
On Tuesday, county officials said they have asked the state to consider flexibility, including more of an adjustment due to its high test rate as well as other factors. It also asked the state to look at whether cases in local prisons should be included in the case price.
A recent outbreak of county jails identified 85 positive cases of coronavirus. Of those, 65 had been identified in the last week that the state was considering. It was the county’s largest, but also one of the few outbursts in gathering settings in the same time frame. The others were on long-term care.
Cheri Carlson covers the environment for Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0260.
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