Safe celebrations are key to preventing local surge in COVID-19 cases

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein reminds community members to celebrate the Super Bowl safely this year to prevent a subsequent surge in COVID-19 cases and slow the spread locally.

County officials urge residents to keep Super Bowl fun virtual this year and choose safer ways to celebrate, following recent recommendations issued by the CDC.

On Jan. 8 the CDC released an updated report regarding “Considerations for Events and Gatherings.” It states that as some communities in the United States begin to plan and hold events and gatherings, the CDC offers a list of considerations for enhancing protection for individuals and communities and preventing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

They go on to say that event planners and officials can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations, making adjustments to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community. 

Because COVID-19 virus circulation varies in communities, these considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which gatherings must comply. 

As advised throughout the pandemic, the risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings increases as follows:

Lowest risk: Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.

More risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).

Higher risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.

Highest risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

“Celebrating the Super Bowl is a beloved tradition for many and, this year, we ask you to focus on celebrating safely without risking our community’s health. We simply can’t afford a surge in cases like we’ve seen after other holidays,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer. “Fly your team’s flag, wear your game-day jersey, make your favorite nachos. But please avoid large gatherings and do your part to keep SLO County safe and healthy.”

According to Dr. Borenstein, COVID-19 infections in SLO County tend to surge two to three weeks following holidays and traditional celebrations. This was the case after Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Contact investigations show that family and friend gatherings continue to fuel the transmission of the virus both locally and nationwide.

This advice from county health officials and the CDC remains the same even after the vaccine has been in circulations since mid-December 2020.  

In a recent report from the CDC on Jan. 25, when asked, “Do I need to wear a mask and avoid close contact with others if I have gotten two doses of the vaccine?”

The CDC’s answer was:

 “Yes. Not enough information is currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. 

We [CDC] also don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself. CDC will continue to update this page as we learn more.

While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.”

One response to this report was, “if that is the case, and we don’t know enough about the effects of the vaccines, nor if it helps in contracting the virus, then why are people being urged to receive it if masks and social distancing are the only key in preventing the spread?” 

The CDC has not responded as of yet. 

County health officials ask that if you choose to gather, do so responsibly “like a BOSS,” by keeping social gatherings Brief, Outside, Small and Symptom-free, and to take precautions during the gathering. It is important to stay six feet away from others, frequently wash your hands and sanitize, avoid shared food and beverages, and wear a face covering.

“Let’s keep the end in sight and do everything we can do to get there without jeopardizing our loved ones’ health and our community’s path to reopening,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer.

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit ReadySLO.org

For updates from the CDC, visit cdc.gov

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