For nearly two years, unelected Ventura County health officials have exercised a historic amount of direct control over the daily lives of nearly a million local residents, with the power to order businesses, schools and churches to shut down, and to attempt to require individuals to receive COVID-19 “vaccinations” and cover their faces. These health officials, who make nearly half a million dollars each in annual salary and benefits, answer only to Ventura County’s board of supervisors, but in its most recent meeting, the board appeared unwilling to give them much active oversight or direction. Instead, supervisors continued to allow health officials to dictate county health policy in pursuit of ever-changing targets.
Upon reconvening from summer break, the five members of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors sat largely silent during a lengthy presentation on COVID-19 mandates by county CEO Michael Powers, freelance public health officer Robert Levin — who recently received a substantial 12.5 percent increase in pay to nearly $300,000 a year — health care agency director Barry Zimmerman, and public health director Rigoberto Vargas as the foursome recommended expanding vaccinations of children, mandating vaccines for health care workers and extending existing mask mandates indefinitely.
While county measures have withered under scrutiny due to questionable data, unintended side effects and community backlash, there was little back-and-forth between the supervisors and their subordinates at September’s virtual meeting. The few questions asked were primarily to satisfy general curiosities and did not appear designed to create accountability for the health officials or to set goals by which to measure their policies’ success.
Powers, the top county executive, whose taxpayer-funded pay and benefits tops $500,000 annually according to transparentcalifornia.com, was the first of the four to speak at the meeting. He reported a need for $143 million in rental and business COVID-19 relief grants. No supervisor asked if recipients needed the assistance because of county lockdown orders, but chairwoman Linda Parks offered self-congratulations for distributing the funds.
“In the midst of such difficult times, it’s been extraordinary to stand up for our community and small businesses and allocate funds to address multiple health, social and economic impacts,” she said.
Powers then noted he was “excited” that nearly 80 percent of adult residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.
“Since we last met with your board, we’ve had over 90,000 vaccines administered,” he said.
Public health director Vargas shared his goal of maximum vaccination rates and touted outreach events to schools to promote vaccinations for middle and high schoolers, though the blind effort to vaccinate this entire young population of little-to-no-risk citizens has drawn criticism. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the case fatality rate for children is negligible.
Rather than probe that issue, Parks praised the county’s “tremendous” vaccination effort.
“It’s great to see you on the high school campuses and now working to get our children 12 and up,” she said.
Vargas went on to say the county needs to “fully flatten the curve.” No query came from the supervisors as to what a “fully flatten”ed curve looks like or what metrics constitute success.
In the following discussion, Vargas revealed that 26 percent of hospital admissions in the prior two weeks were from vaccinated individuals, among other figures of note. No supervisor questioned any of the data given.
“It’s very important young people get vaccinated,” Vargas continued. The county is making “really good progress” vaccinating kids 12 and older, he said. “Let’s continue to vaccinate our students that are eligible.”
Dr. Levin then spoke, admitting that new COVID variants “have properties that help it evade current vaccines.” He then laid the groundwork for attempting to impose indefinite mask mandates on the countywide population. At one point, Supervisor Kelly Long thanked Levin for the mask mandate extension.
She then asked if vaccinated people should get tested for antibodies before getting a booster, and Levin advised that they skip that step and “just get revaccinated.”
HCA director Barry Zimmerman discussed the August 5 state mandate requiring vaccinations for all health care workers. Since only 77 percent of hospital workers have shown proof of vaccination or an exemption, “staff shortages is a real issue,” Zimmerman warned.
While the county faces the risk of losing nearly a quarter of its hospital workers due to the state mandate, the supervisors did not ask why up to 23 percent of hospital workers are unvaccinated compared to only 20 percent of the general population.
Parks acknowledged, “We felt like once everyone was vaccinated they were safe. Now with the breakthroughs, that’s a different situation.”
Her last question for Levin on the subject was if the county would be as “aggressive” in its outreach for boosters as it has been with its other COVID efforts. When answered in the affirmative, she was pleased and added that some segments of the population “may need to be convinced.”