April 17: OVN EDITORIAL on OPINION page: Levin levels an essential business

Two weeks ago, we reported that the Ojai store, Ben Franklin, was showing our small-town resilience by staying open as an “essential business” — a place to “purchase household products (such as cleaning and personal-care products) necessary to the safe, sanitary and essential operation of places of residence.” Additionally, it has been providing materials to support the massive schooling-from-home undertaking, well underway all over the valley, with teachers actively coordinating with the store’s owner to procure items for lesson plans.
Since the city of Ojai has ordered residents to wear face coverings while visiting local essential businesses, Ben Franklin has been providing facial coverings and is the only store offering the materials to make them for adults and children. The store has been in full compliance with the city’s social-distancing rules.
This week, Ventura County Health Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin — who still has not required the rest of the county to wear masks in stores to prevent the aerosol spread of COVID-19 — ordered Ojai’s Ben Franklin to shut its doors, despite the strongly worded request sent to him by City Manager James Vega (See his letter on this page.) Dr. Levin is effectively forcing residents to visit less-regulated communities to shop at Staples, 99 Centts Only store, and Dollar Tree in Ventura for some products. Why drive outside our community to purchase these products? Why promote overcrowding in Ojai grocery stores? 


The request by Mr. Vega — Ojai’s own emergency manager during the pandemic — to keep Ben Franklin open is based on official and local knowledge of the needs of Ojai residents and should be honored.
The Ojai Valley News stands with the city of Ojai in support of this local business remaining open. We urge the Public Health officer to respect the concerns of Ojai city officials who are also entrusted to protect public health. Common sense must not fall victim to COVID-19.