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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- As Ventura County residents struggle to find answers about the coronavirus and what the latest information available, State Assembly Member Monique Limón took time out of her busy schedule to give readers the latest news.
The statehouse has been going non-stop working on and approving a $1.1 billion virus emergency response package for residents who have been affected by the pandemic.
One of the more pressing questions has been testing for the virus, and right now, only your physician or public health official can order a test.
"Right now, the state is prioritizing tests through the counties," she said. "The public health department has to prioritize the tests to people who have the greatest need. Those are people who are showing symptoms."
She knows that people can carry the virus and transmit the coronavirus to someone without showing any symptoms.
"The reason we're not there yet is because we don't have enough tests in the world," she said. "This is not a unique thing for Ventura County. Every state in the country is looking for more tests. "We're hopeful that the federal legislation that has been passed will bring us those resources."
To give a test, Limón said you need the elements to conduct the test, plus the process of conducting the test, which takes several hours per test.
"The goal for our country and state is to get to a place where we have a greater capacity," she said. "Right now, the only entity that can assign a test is through your public health department or your direct provider."
Effective March 18, Ventura County will have a 211 hotline that will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it will answer everyone's questions.
"We're excited that people will have a number and will be able to talk to someone and answer all of these questions," she said. "This is a Ventura County specific hotline. If people get a busy signal, they need to keep calling."
She said that every public health agency is doing as much as it can do, and people feel like they don't have enough.
"That is the consistent feeling," she said. "What they do, as medical professionals, is they triage, address the most pressing medical needs, and work themselves to address all of them."
In Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obisbo counties, only two facilities run the tests.
"One is in Ventura County, and one is in San Luis Obisbo," she said. "Every county has different needs in terms of materials and supplies. There is high demand, and we need more, and we are looking to the federal government to assist us. We're hopeful with the legislation they passed."
The homeless and the coronavirus
Limón said meeting the needs of the homeless with the spread of the virus is a huge priority.
"Our governor has 13 task forces that he has formed to deal with the coronavirus, and one of them is on the homeless," she said. "It's imperative that we find ways to help the homeless to prevent an outbreak."
Governor Gavin Newsome has talked about procuring hotels, motels, and travel trailers, Limón said, and everyone is doing everything they can.
"This is my fourth year in the legislature, and I lived through the Thomas Fire and debris flows that I thought were big," she said. "There has been nothing that has been this big."
Changes are coming faster and daily to executive orders, she said, and the homeless task force is in the present time and talking about the issue.
"They're trying to get the 108,000 people who are homeless into some kind of hotel. Motel or travel trailer to get them off the streets to prevent an outbreak," she said.
The food supply
People who panic shop and deplete food from grocery stores need to calm down.
"I believe that we have enough food supplies," she said. "Many stores are choosing to open earlier for our elderly population. We're asking people not to hoard. Needing and hoarding are two different things. For the state, it is a big prioritization issue. The grocer’s association in our state believes that we have enough supplies. It's getting them stocked in all the stores. We hope that people will remain calm."
Limón understands that it's hard to be calm sometimes.
"We're living in a moment that most of our country has never lived in before," she said. "The last time we had something like this, it was a century ago, and it didn't look and feel like this."
Help for struggling businesses
If someone has their business hurt because of the coronavirus, Limón said, there is relief available through the Small Business Association.
"Ventura County small businesses do qualify to apply for this," she said. "They have to apply online through the Small Business Administration. They have a lower interest rate, and it is up to $2 million per business, and it has a 30-year pay period in some cases. It depends on individual needs."
She realizes that people in the state have found themselves unemployed because of the coronavirus.
"We're encouraging people to visit our EDD Department at the state for unemployment insurance," she said.
Limón said the coronavirus is a priority, and the state is working hard on the problem.
"We see this as a priority for our communities, our state, and our country," she said. "There is no doubt that the impact the virus has had on our community members and the community at large; there is no doubt that California is going to be looking at difficult budget times. The $1.1 billion we approved is coming from our reserves. There has never been a time where California has had as many reserves as we do now. We did this after the 2008-2009 downturn in the economy, and we believe this is exactly when you go to your emergency reserves."