With continued observance of distancing guidelines, more of SLO County opens

Although the jump in cases rose by eight total cases from Tuesday to Wednesday, San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein disclosed she was not concerned at the single-day spike. Instead, she reported at the regularly scheduled public briefing that the County will lift some restrictions on religious gatherings, house cleaning services, fabric shops and drive-in theaters.

“We are not going to react to a single day,” Borenstein said. “I’m not particularly concerned about seeing a higher number today. The good news is we still only have one person in the hospital.”

District Five SLO County Supervisor Debbie Arnold joined Borenstein at the Wednesday briefing for an update on County office activity and to address concerns from constituents.

Debbie Arnold
Debbie Arnold

“We know some residents are concerned we are relaxing restrictions too fast, and others are concerned we are taking too long,” Arnold said. “I want to assure you, our decisions are based on data — which includes our case count and hospitalizations over the past 14 days.”


“We are continually analyzing businesses and activities that can be partially reopened under the County’s order and is consistent with the Governor’s order,” Arnold said. “We look forward to returning to business as usual, but for now need to keep the shelter-at-home orders in place.”

The collaborative effort to bring SLO County back to life brings County and elected officials, business and education leaders, and others together for input and smart decisions.

“We continue to look at our order and what we can do to bring the community back to some level of activity,” Borenstein said.

While restrictions are being lifted, it is a gradual process that calls for continued efforts to maintain health and wellness among SLO County residents. In regards to the restrictions on religious activity, gatherings are allowed in parking lots where distancing is easily maintained.

“With respect to congregations coming together,” Borenstein said. “We can approve those services taking place in a parking lot at their places of service as long as physical distancing is begin observed. We recommend at those religious gatherings that no physical items are passed between people.”

House cleaning services saw a reduction of restrictions, as did fabric stores who supply materials for mask-making. Like religious activity, those restrictions are loosened, but not removed completely.

“On the line of masks … fabric stores can provide service as there is a shortage of raw material,” Borenstein said. “These types of facilities that sell these products are able to resume business, so long as social distancing and other safety measures are maintained.”

Drive-in theaters also received a green light, providing healthy distances and safety is maintained.

“Similar to what we are expressing as allowable with religious services, the parking lot is able to be used and maintain distancing,” Borenstein said.

As the County continues to look at data to guide the decisions, and acknowledges the pressures by the community along economic and health lines. When asked what threshold might change the County’s direction for administering restrictions, Borenstein said SLO County has a generous ceiling for dealing with an uptick in cases — with healthcare system capacity as a overriding factor.

“If simply we see an uptick — a doubling or even a tripling — in cases each day,” Borenstein said, “as long as we are seeing a green light through our hospital system, we will take all that information into consideration before we pull the trigger on any reversion of protective measures.”

“Some say we are moving to fast, some say we are moving too slow,” “Some saying we are being too cautious and we need to get people back to work and others saying you are taking our lives for granted and we should stay hunkered down until we get to zero. How do we make decisions within that framework? Carefully, judiciously, with a lot of smart minds around us, and taking into respect everything everyone is saying and take an intelligent and balanced approach. Watching the reality of our community.”

As SLO County opens, neighboring counties pose a threat in terms of spreading COVID-19 by traveling into SLO County with the disease. Borenstein admitted there is no clear safeguard against that activity.

“As we begin to open our doors, how do we control that situation and keep [the disease] at our borders?” Borenstein said. “We can’t.”

The County released information clarifying the shelter-at-home order revisions.

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