Health officials warn of a backslide as contact tracers work hard to slow the spread

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County is approaching 5,000 COVID-19 cases since March, and local health officials warn that a spike in cases this week could result in more State restrictions in the coming weeks.

The County Public Health Department’s contact tracers are quickly working to investigate the new cases and address outbreaks in local communities in North County and San Luis Obispo. Officials attribute the spike to a growing fatigue fueled by the months-long pandemic.
“We are all tired of this pandemic, but we can’t afford for our community members to ease up,” said County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein. “SLO County has been doing so well in recent weeks, and unfortunately, this week we’re seeing a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Young adults are not immune – a large majority of the new cases are among people between ages 18 and 29, some of whom are ending up in the hospital.”

While past weeks have shown an improvement in case and positivity rates, San Luis Obispo County health officials are noting concerning trends in recent days – 156 new cases have been reported in the past 72 hours. SLO County should not exceed 140 cases in a week (or 20 cases per day) to stay in the State’s Red Tier. In this short period, total cases have increased by 10% in San Luis Obispo, total cases in North County have increased by 3%, and other regions have seen slight increases (less than 2% since Saturday).

“We want to move forward, not backward, and we can turn this around before it negatively impacts the entire county,” said Dr. Borenstein. “Young adults: You know what you need to do. Wear your face covering, avoid social gatherings with people outside of your social bubble, stay home if you’re sick, and get tested.”
Most cases in SLO County have recovered, but many active cases are among Cal Poly students living off-campus in San Luis Obispo who are gathering without proper safety precautions. Of the 74 cases in the last 24 hours, 37 cases are in San Luis Obispo (city), and 7 are among Cal Poly campus residents. In addition, 73% of the new cases are residents aged 18-29 years old.

“We remind all students of the role they play in helping to maintain the health and safety of our community. Every student has an individual responsibility, and we are asking each of you to recommit yourselves to adhering strictly to all health and safety guidelines,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “While we know and appreciate that most students have approached the ability to be on campus as a privilege and have acted responsibly to protect City of Atascadero • City of Arroyo Grande • City of Grover Beach • City of Morro Bay
City of El Paso de Robles • City of Pismo Beach • City of San Luis Obispo • County of San Luis Obispo that, it only takes a few people ignoring health and safety guidelines to create a risk for everyone.”

County Public Health officials continue to work closely with communities affected, including officials with Cal Poly and the City of San Luis Obispo, to slow the spread. To help prevent gatherings, the City of San Luis Obispo invoked a citywide Safety Enhancement Zone in April 2020 that doubles the fine for violations for noise, unruly gatherings, open alcohol container, public urination, and violations of public health orders.

Cal Poly is increasing testing among off-campus students who are in the Greek community and in the neighborhoods where clusters of cases have been identified. Cal Poly is also following plans and procedures to isolate infected students and quarantine exposed students on campus.

All residents should take protective actions to limit the spread of COVID-19: wear a face-covering in public, maintain six feet of distance from others outside your household, stay in SLO County (avoid traveling outside of the county), and wash your hands frequently.

The California Department of Public Health released updated guidance for private gatherings. Anyone planning to host or participate in a private gathering must comply with the following requirements:

  1. Keep it outside.
  2. Keep it small (no more than three households present at one time).
  3. Don’t attend if you feel sick or are in a high-risk group.
  4. Practice physical distancing and hand hygiene.
  5. Wear a face covering at all times to keep COVID-19 from spreading.
  6. Keep it brief.

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit ReadySLO.org or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at (805) 788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center at (805) 543-2444 is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to assist with COVID-19 questions.

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