Coronavirus update in Ventura County: COVID-19 cases on the rise, particularly from large gatherings, officials warn

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- Since October, Ventura County has been on the state's red tier of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing indoor dining at restaurants at 25% capacity with outdoor dining readily available.

There's a strong possibility Ventura County is at risk of going back to the most restrictive purple tier. That means struggling businesses like restaurants could find it harder to stay open.

"We wouldn't be doing as well if it wasn't for outdoor dining. With the indoor dining, we haven't been doing great so far," described Gustavo Sanchez, who runs the Busy Bee Cafe.

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On Thursday, Ventura County reported 72 new cases, bringing the region's total case count to nearly 16,000. There were no new deaths to report, keeping the fatality county at 171.

Ventura County public health officials are concerned that the number of positive cases cold send the county back to the most restrictive purple tier.

"The largest number of cases we're seeing are in gatherings, especially larger gatherings. So I really urge every Ventura County resident to think twice about the impact of your actions. As I've said before, your actions do matter...those actions will have an impact," said Rigo Vargas, the county's public health director.

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Ventura County public health officials are urging everyone to cover their face, keep their physical distance and get tested. Dr. Melissa Barger, the county's infectious disease expert, is asking you to make the sacrifice of keeping your holiday gatherings small.

"It's really important that we continue to push through with this. This is the new way of life, and we kind of just have to adjust to it for now," she said.

The county's COVID numbers on Sunday will determine whether the region remains in red or slides back to purple.

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