Changes in State criteria provide local path to more reopening

On Monday, San Luis Obispo County issued a press release reporting that the criteria for advancing further into Stage 2 of the State’s Resiliency Roadmap was altered, and provided the County an opportunity to cleanly attest to the readiness for opening more business and potentially some school activity.

Following reports from SLO County District Four Supervisor Lynn Compton and Cal Poly President Jeffery Armstrong, SLO County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein spoke to the County’s progress.

“The State is now issuing new epidemiologic criteria for counties to meet to be able to attest in moving forward,” Borenstein said. “For us, that pertains to the opening of in-restaurant dining and in-store retail.”

Two new criteria changes by the State have given the green light for SLO County to attest and submit for approval in advancing further into Stage 2.

One criteria change involves hospitalization and the other involves case count.

For hospitalizations, a county must have less than 20 hospitalizations in a given day over a 14-day period; alternatively, not seeing more than a five percent increase in hospitalizations over a 14-day period.

“One way or another, or both, we will meet the hospitalization stabilization criteria,” Borenstein said.

The second change in criteria concerns overall case count for a 14-day period. Previously, the State criteria called for no more than one case per 10,000 residents during a two-week period. With 280,000 residents in SLO County, the case count limit was 28 for the time period.

As of Monday, the County exceeded the limit with a total case count of 44 for the period. — with Paso Robles exceeding the 28 case limit all by itself.

The struggle to tamp down on positive cases has been given a reprieve, as the new case count per capita criteria for the State’s Stage 2 Resiliency Roadmap is 2.5 per 10,000.

The new total number of new cases SLO County can produce over a two week period is 70, or an average of five per day.

Even more achievable is the alternate option to attest that no more than eight percent of all tests return a positive result for COVID-19 over a seven day period.

“In our last seven-day period, we saw less than one percent of all our testing in this county as having a positive result for COVID-19,” Borenstein said.

Based on percentages, the more residents that continue getting tested, the lower the ratio of positive test results. The new criteria provide a controllable pathway toward further reopening for SLO County, and give Dr. Borenstein the statistics needed to attest to the State in favor of local variance for the county.

Upon receiving approval for the attestation, SLO County can begin authorizing the opening of:

  • Destination retail (retail stores), including shopping malls and swap meets
  • Dine-in restaurants (other amenities, like bars or gaming areas, are not permitted in Stage 2)
  • Schools with modifications

“We feel that we are absolutely going to be able to meet these criteria and attest. Now it is only a matter of a timeline,” Borenstein said.

The application process for attestation requires approval by the California Department of Public Health, which has approved 23 counties for full Stage 2 activity as of Monday. About three dozen counties remain under the first part of Stage 2, including SLO County.

“As has happened in the first attestation process, the CDPH — the California Department of Public Health — will review all the documentation and ensure everything meets the criteria they have set, then post it on their website and give the County the allowance to move forward,” Borenstein said. “I am hopeful, and will continue to communicate with the State that we would like that to happen as immediately as possible, but I cannot predict exactly what day that will happen.”

While she did not predict a date, Dr. Borenstein said the County hopes to have the authorization to open more economy within a few days.

For businesses preparing for opening as stages allow, the State provides information (Resiliency Roadmap guidance by industry can be found here.)

With Memorial Day approaching, and family and friends plan to engage in meaningful community traditions, Dr. Borenstein restated County guidance for gatherings.

“We … are asking residents that if they are going to proceed with any type of in-person gathering … that all mixed groups of people remain below the number 10,” Borenstein said.

With a warm weekend, beaches were populated, and when pressed about her level of concern over beach attendance, Borenstein did not voice any.

“I looked at video from a number of different places, both from people who were horrified by what they saw and others who said ‘everything looks great,'” Borenstein said, “From my perspective, there are definitely more people using our beaches, [but] I’m not too concerned about that as long as people continue to be smart and sensible and for the most part travel in family groups. Six feet is the minimum — we have lots of wide-open beach.”

She continued to encourage people to distance even further — 10 to 15 feet — and use “common sense” about public socialization.

For up-to-date information about COVID-19 as it relates to North SLO County, see our dedicated page.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles