SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — Health officials announced Friday that a state of emergency has been declared locally over the global COVID-19 pandemic in anticipation of the disease reaching San Luis Obispo County. 

“This is so that we can respond as quickly and nimbly as we can to any situation that arises,” said County Health Directory Penny Borenstein, adding that the virus reaching SLO County is “almost a certainty.” 

Borenstein said that the declaration of a local health emergency would allow the county health department to “move personnel quicker and get whatever materials we need faster.” 

“If anybody is questioning why we’re declaring a state of emergency today, they just need to turn on the TV.” 

Borenstein said that the county health department has tested 37 local residents to date but there are still no positive cases in the county. Borenstein said that she was concerned about the capacity for laboratory testing, noting that the SLO County Health Department is one of only 22 labs in the state testing for the virus and has the capacity to test 50 patients per day. She said that yesterday, the health department began allowing local outpatient facilities to send them patients with coronavirus symptoms to be tested and that the county still hasn’t reached its capacity for testing.

“We stand somewhat alone in that,” Borenstein said, adding that other laboratories have only been testing the “sickest of the sick.” 

“We’re very proud that in our little corner of the world we’ve been able to provide testing services that other public health laboratories haven’t,” Borenstein said. 

Although the health department has recommended that many large gatherings and events in the county be cancelled, it has yet to recommend that schools be closed, pointing out that the epidemic is “sparing children for the post part,” and that only two percent of those infected with the disease have been children. At this point, they are also allowing weddings and funerals to proceed as planned. 

“The reason for being very judicial and cautious (with schools) is because that is a huge societal disruption,” she said.

Getting through this together, Atascadero