On a Wednesday afternoon Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County's health director, is on his way to check just how successful his messaging against COVID-19 has been.
“Am I worried? Am I concerned about this? I am. I think we all should be,” Levin said.
For Levin, a pediatrician certified in infectious diseases, this fight is personal, he said.
“I’ve lived in this county for 22 years. I love this county. I love where I live, and I love the people that I live in this county with,” Levin said.
But COVID-19 cases are up in Ventura County.
The day before, Levin said he visited Ojai and saw firsthand the mask and social distancing violations.
“So, I got out of my car, and I was walking by here and I saw six people gathered here,” he said.
Gatherings are one reason cases are up. Another reason is the county reopened too quickly, Levin said.
“The state would say you can open this, this, this, and this if your county is ready, well that opened the floodgates for pressure to do just that,” he said.
The reopening also served as a sort of green light for people to gather again, and he has seen it all over Ojai and other towns.
“There were three couples right here who were all the same age, and they were eating pizza, and drinking the beer… So, I walked on, I thought I would go around the block,” Levin said.
In just over a month there has been a five-fold increase in ICU COVID-19 patients in Ventura County. Levin said to avoid tragedies, another self-imposed quarantine is needed and fast.
“Every time we spend a couple of weeks in seclusion we are driving a major blow to this pandemic we are seeing in our county.”
He knows it’s not what people want to hear, and he could face backlash, he said. After all, he and many other health directors have been the target of harassment and even death threats.
“One of the ways of dealing with this is to try not to look at social media, and try not to even look at mainstream media, and to get that feedback," Levin said. "And just do your best. Put your shoulder to the grindstone and keep pushing forward.”