SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said planning was underway for the first phase of COVID-19 vaccination in the County.
During the County’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Borenstein said that two vaccines were on the horizon and that the County was reaching out to stakeholders for input on dissemination.
“We have started to dialogue with our hospital partners,” said Borenstein on Wednesday, Nov. 18. “It is likely our hospital workers will be our first recipients of the small amount of vaccine that we may receive as early as next month.”
Moderna and Pfizer are planning to submit “very soon” for FDA approval for emergency-use authorization.
“Both vaccines appear to be very effective, but it will take quite some time for us to get a volume of vaccine that will serve our entire population,” said Borenstein on Wednesday, Nov. 18. “In the meantime, we are beginning to work with what that first phase of vaccination will look like in our County.”
The County is obtaining the appropriate deep freezers, Borenstein said. The County has enrolled and is encouraging hospitals and skilled-nursing facilities to register in the state system that is accepting providers to sign-up for receipt of vaccinations.
Borenstein made it clear that initially, there will not be enough vaccine. The County is planning to have “a broader stakeholder group related to the important decision making that is going to be necessary about how we triage what will be insufficient amounts of vaccine,” she said.
Not everyone will want the vaccine, but Borenstein said the County and providers still need to prepare to administer the vaccine. Borenstein did not provide any specific details on the vaccine or vaccination process.
“And in that, we will not have enough at the get-go; we are going to be doing this important work with our stakeholders helping to determine what a prioritization scheme looks like in our County. So, stay tuned on that,” she said.
Borenstein provided an update on the County’s COVID-19 numbers as she does each week and, for anyone still not aware, restated that San Luis Obispo was moved back into the Purple Tier on Monday, Nov. 16.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that COVID-19 cases were surging at all-time highs across the state, and as a result, he preemptively moved nearly 30 counties, including SLO, back to Purple. SLO’s COVID-19 numbers were soaring enough to send it back without the governor’s action.
“I want to note that since Monday, sorry over the last two weeks, we have had over 700 cases and on average 65 a day,” Borenstein said.
Borenstein noted that part of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy allows the governor to step in and act more aggressively.
“It’s for these reasons that the governor announced on Monday that there were going to be some changes to the implementation of the Blueprint metrics,” Borenstein said.
Borenstein said the County’s hospitalizations continue to be relatively low, with 10 in the hospital and one in intensive care.
In the Purple Tier, restaurants, houses of worship, winery tasting rooms and fitness centers can operate only outdoors. Retail stores will be limited to 25% capacity, among other restrictions.
Schools that are open to in-person learning will be able to continue that way. But no additional schools can open to having students in classrooms. Barbershops and hair salons can still operate indoors, with restrictions.
The majority of the new SLO cases have been in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo city and Cal Poly campus residents.
Borenstein addressed the Cal Poly bashing she was hearing.
“It is absolutely true that Cal Poly continues to see high numbers amongst their student body and those numbers are part of the reason that we are regressing, but we have actually run the numbers and found that even without the Cal Poly cases we would be reverting to Purple because our case rates are that high,” she said.
Borenstein said hundreds and hundreds of Cal Poly students are quarantining. The County and Cal Poly administration were encouraging any students not on quarantine to return home and finish the quarter with distance learning, if possible.
“We want to begin to evacuate in a sense the campus as soon as possible,” Borenstein said. “By this Friday [Nov. 20], with the exception of those students who need to complete their isolation period or for those students who are in family situations where they don’t have somewhere to go to, for the most part, the campus is going to be closed as of this Friday.”
Borenstein believes the County can get back to the Red Tier if people follow the COVID-19 guidelines and mandates — wear a face covering and social distance.
She encouraged people to celebrate like a BOSS when gathering.
“I want to introduce a new term for you. We want you to celebrate like a BOSS,” Borenstein said. “Keep your social gatherings B – brief, O – outside, S – small, and S – symptom-free.”
On Thursday, Nov. 19, SLO County reported 86 new COVID-19 cases bringing the overall total to 5,486. There were 12 new cases in Paso Robles and seven apiece in Atascadero and Templeton. The City of SLO had 55 new cases.
Twelve people are currently hospitalized, with one in intensive care. The County reported its 35th COVID-19 death, a person in their 80s who was vulnerable to severe illness because of underlying conditions.