Vaccinations and continued masking indoors remain key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 

SAN LUIS OBISPO — The County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department issued criteria for lifting the current Health Officer Order to wear face masks in all indoor public places. 

According to the public health officer, vaccinations and wearing face coverings indoors has dropped the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across San Luis Obispo County.  

“The COVID-19 case rate in SLO County is moving in the right direction, and for that, I thank the many residents and business owners who are actively complying with the indoor mask requirement and those who are making the decision to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer. “As this current surge begins to recede, now is the time to establish criteria we can collectively work toward to lift indoor masking requirements for many people in many settings.” 


According to the County, the criteria was developed with a focus on protecting local hospital capacity going into winter while keeping the community safe and open.

The County of San Luis Obispo Health Department will lift the indoor masking requirement in public spaces—not subject to state and federal masking rules—when the following criteria are met: 

  • San Luis Obispo County reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and remains there for at least one incubation period of 10 days; and 
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the County are low and stable, and total hospital capacity is sufficient to meet the needs of all patients, in the judgment of the County Health Officer. 

These criteria are similar to those adopted by other California counties. SLO County is currently in the substantial (orange) tier as defined by the CDC. The County’s current masking requirements went into effect on Sept. 1 in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Since Jun. 15, those who were not fully vaccinated have represented 78 percent of new COVID-19 cases, 84 percent of hospitalizations, and 79 percent of deaths in SLO County. 

“Lifting the indoor mask mandate prematurely, while there is still substantial COVID-19 transmission and as we head into the winter months when hospitals typically see a surge from other respiratory conditions, will only land us right back where we were before the mask order was put in place,” said Dr. Borenstein. “It is important to note the criteria also provide safety for elementary school-aged children, who as yet cannot be vaccinated. High numbers of community cases lead to infections in children, which has the unfortunate impact of students missing in-person school instruction. Our path forward is very clear, and getting vaccinated is ultimately the safest and most effective way to end the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at (805)788-2903. In addition, phone assistance is available at (805)781-5500 Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on COVID-19 vaccine, visit