Essential operations will remain open and available • outdoor activities not banned

We are taking actions based on the best evidence-based judgement by our public health experts, both locally and at the state level,” County Office Administrator Wade Horton said. “We are also adjusting our response as the situation does evolve.”

“We will issue a mandatory shelter-at-home order, effective at 5 p.m., March 19,” Horton said. “The intent of this order is to ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate at home to the maximum extent feasible while allowing essential services to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible.”

“The actions we are taking will allow us to get back to normal as soon as possible,” Horton said. “COVID-19 is spreading in our county, and individuals who contracted the disease could have little or no symptoms, which means they may not be aware they are carrying the virus. We need to limit gatherings to prevent virus transmission and protect the most vulnerable and prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed.”


The order will allow people to engage in essential travel, essential government activity and essential business.

“You may leave your home for the essential activity of taking care of your health and safety, that of your household members, your family members, and your pets,” County Council Rita Neal said. “You can leave your homes to get necessary supplies such as pharmacy items, grocery items, sanitary items, and outdoor activity including walking, hiking, and running.”

Essential services, businesses, and functions will be exempt from the order to shelter-at-home. Airport operations can continue, and utilities including public transportation. Emergency services will continue. Essential government functions will continue. Essential services include nonprofit organizations, healthcare operations, grocery stores and certified farmer’s markets, health food stores, and other agriculture operations.

Newspapers, television and other media will continue to operate, as well as banks and related financial institutions, hardware stores, post offices and post office boxes.

“The intent is to prevent spread,” County Administrative Officer and Wade Horton said. “You can go out and surf, go hiking … what we don’t want is for people to congregate in large groups.”

The order in place will ask that residents self-police to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the penalty for violation is a misdemeanor.

“The intent is to prevent spread,” Horton said. “If you are out walking your dog, surfing by yourself or with another person, maintain that 6-foot distance to prevent transmission. You can go out and surf, go hiking, but what we don’t want is for people to congregate in large groups.”

Horton also stated the County is working with Cal OES and FEMA to help the homeless population.

In response to concerns about predatory activities from people trying to profit off the crisis by impersonating health officers, Horton had strong feelings.

“I think that is pathetic,” Horton said. “If we have people trying to profit off this crisis we are in, that is unfortunate. If we see price gouging, we recommend people call our offices to report that at 805-543-5444.”

The number of cases of COVID-19 rose today in SLO County from six to seven overnight. Out of the seven positive tests, two of those came from private labs, according to County Health Officer Penny Borenstein. That number is expected to rise, but there is uncertainty to how high.

“We are looking at best case scenario, and worst case scenario,” Borenstein said. “Worst case scenario has led us to buy more equipment. I’m of the opinion we will not see the worst case scenario. We tend to see a doubling of cases week over week, but the trouble is we don’t know how long that curve will last. We are preparing for the worst.”

As numbers rise, the County is working to maintain capacity to support.

“We have some surge capacity in regards to medical personnel,” Borenstein said. “At some point, if we do see worst case scenario where the staffing or medical equipment will have limiting factors, we are working to avoid that.”

Local concerns include food and grocery supply chains, and Horton said the County is working to ensure supply of necessities, including food.

“We are in contact with grocers and working through issues with supply chains and we are hearing different stories,” Horton said. “Some are having problems with supply chains, and some are not.”

The County is working on relief efforts for property taxes and eviction restrictions.

“This has been difficult for the county and the cities,” Horton said. “We have a strong collaboration between the seven cities.”

From the SLO County Sheriff’s Office:

Now that the order to shelter-in-place has been given by the County of San Luis Obispo, the Sheriff’s Office is offering guidance on our role and responsibility during this challenging time. First and foremost, we are asking all the citizens of the County to remain calm. We understand these are trying times. But remember, the Sheriff’s Office mission is to provide service, security and safety to the community. And we can do that if we have everyone’s cooperation in being responsible citizens. It’s important to know about a shelter-in-place directive that you are allowed to leave your house. You can still leave to get food or medicine or keep doctor’s appointments. You can leave your house to take your dog on a walk. You can leave your house if you want to go for a hike. Just remember the rules regarding the six-foot social distancing rule and to avoid gathering in large groups. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide full service to the community. We will maintain robust staffing in the field and the public should expect to see our deputies patrolling in their communities with no break in service. Additionally, we will have a high saturation of patrols targeted in the commercial corridors. Again, we ask for your cooperation during this time. And by working with each other, we know will get through this together.

Keep informed with North County’s up-to-date COVID-19 page.