VC enters red tier, Cal Lutheran starts to reopen

Lauren Heller, Reporter

After nearly eight months of COVID-19 lockdowns, event postponements and cancellations, Ventura County is beginning to reopen.

On Oct. 6 the County of Ventura Executive Office announced that Ventura County can now transition from the purple zone to the red zone.

The purple zone, or tier, is the most restrictive reopening tier in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-tier system, meaning there are still widespread amounts of COVID-19 cases being reported within the county.

Now, Ventura County has entered the red zone, meaning there is still a “substantial” number of positive cases. 

By transitioning to the red tier, schools can opt for some level of in-person learning and businesses can begin opening indoor operations.

Ventura County’s ability to transition to the red tier can be attributed to its dedication to having a “high and consistent testing volume,” said Ashley Humes, the Public Information Officer for the County of Ventura Health Care Agency, in an email interview.

The county reported 674 active cases on Oct. 8, with a total of 13,224 cases including active, recovered, and deceased.

“It’s important we continue regular testing as it helps us trace as well as keep businesses open,” Humes added.

If the county maintains its red status with testing positivity rates remaining below 8%, schools of all grade levels may begin to consider reopening as soon as Oct. 21, Humes said.

In the coming weeks, California Lutheran University students will begin to see progressive openings and expansions of people allowed in the Forrest Fitness Center, Pearson Library, Ullman Commons and Campus Store.

Provided by Ryan Van Ommeren.

In a Zoom interview, Ryan Van Ommeren, director of Emergency Operations and the associate vice president of Planning & Services, said Cal Lutheran will be able to open the 9,500 square foot Forrest Fitness center at 10% capacity.

He added that Starbucks at Jack’s Corner will continue to operate for takeout only, but Ullman Commons will open for indoor dining at 25% capacity.

In addition, indoor classes are permitted at 25% capacity, but it will ultimately be up to individual professors and students to decide whether to attend in-person classes.

Andrea Layne, director of Student Life, said in an email interview that Cal Lutheran will keep offering events on campus while adhering to the county’s guidelines, such as wearing masks and socially distancing.

Right now, Cal Lutheran limits the number of people who can attend gatherings, but will soon ease the restrictions if case numbers continue to decline.

Van Ommeren said there is a 3% weekly positive test rate in Ventura County and about seven positive test results per 100,000.

This enables Cal Lutheran to also plan outdoor University Chapel services.

“I give the county all the credit in the world for [having] information a lot easier to get to and easier to figure out where they are. Ventura County did things to get the count down,” Van Ommeren said.

He also said he believes Ventura County’s ability to deliver consistent, strong and clear communication comes from a “more personal” environment within the county. 

“I think we [at Cal Lutheran] have been super fortunate. I think we did a lot of things to help us and the students; there is a reason they chose Cal Lutheran, and the ones that do, are more likely to follow [directions],” Van Ommeren said.