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South Coast Public Health Officials Issue Warning About Holiday Gatherings: Safety First

It’s November, and the holiday season is just around the corner.

That’s normally a time for family and friends to get together, but public health officials on the Central and South Coasts say the coronavirus crisis means conventional celebrations aren’t a good idea.

They are suggesting some safe ways to have small gatherings to prevent super-spreader events.

Ventura County Public Health officials say the county and the region have made progress towards containing the virus, which led to some reopenings.  But, the numbers are again spiking around the world, and across the country.

Dr. Robert Levin is Ventura County’s Public Health Officer.  He says we’ve seen surges which have led to new lockdowns in places like Great Britain, and large scale increases in dozens of U.S. states.

Dr. Levin says they’ve come up with an approach for family gatherings during the holidays.  He says it uses a state model, in which members of three families or households can safely gather, with social distancing.

It has to be the same groups, without new people being added.  During a holiday meal, to prevent potential COVID-19 spread, people need to follow mask and social distancing guidelines.  And, if food is being served, one person should do it, whether it’s buffet style where one person does the serving, or the serve comes to people with the food.    

The public health official says key to limited family gatherings is getting everyone tested. 

And, Dr. Levin says people have to be brutally realistic about the situation.  As much as you want your 86-year-old grandmother to be a part of the family gathering, the risk is too high.  He says using Zoom is the safe alternative.

Dr. Levin says all anyone who still questions how real the crisis is in Ventura County has to do is look at the death toll.  It was originally though between 250 and a thousand people might die.  While the number is in the 160’s due to  COVID-19 safety efforts, it’s still more than triple the worst flu death toll in recent years.

Some Oxnard residents tell KCLU News they have already been thinking about the potential danger from holiday get-togethers, and realize they can’t do what they would normally do with family, and friends.  They are planning small events with immediate family, and will have everyone get tested.

Ventura County Public Health officials say it would only take a few family super-spreader events to undo the progress of the last few months.

They say they will be working hard in coming weeks to get the community thinking about the risk, and how to keep some family celebrations from turning into family tragedies. 

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.