On Monday, REACH board member Clint Pierce told the public that the “Roadmap to Reopening” would be available next week, and District 1 Supervisor John Peschong restated today that timeline at the regularly scheduled public briefing by the SLO County Public Health Department.
Peschong began by addressing the urgency of reopening, echoing the statement by California Governor Gavin Newsom that there is no date set for reopening. Reopening of the community has been established as a process based on indicators of community health and safety.
“We will be ready next week to release a roadmap for a phased reopening,” Peschong said. “Our goal is to get this out quickly to the public, but not at the expense of being thoughtful, deliberative and inclusive.”
Peschong affirmed that the roadmap will be a high level overview of each new phasing of reopening, with additional details to follow. Pierce stated on Monday that the task force putting the plan together has two weeks to get one year of work done, so it might be expected that the plan will continue to be formulated more gradually than having an instant master plan.
While the Roadmap to Reopening is expected as a guide to recovery for the County, it must follow the state orders in place.
Until the state can build immunity, actions will be aligned to achieve the following goals:
- Ensure our ability to care for the sick within our hospitals;
- Prevent infection in people who are at high risk for severe disease;
- Build the capacity to protect the health and well-being of the public; and
- Reduce social, emotional and economic disruptions
California presented six indicators for modifying the stay-at-home order:
- The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
- The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
- The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
- The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
- The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
- The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.
With respect to recovery, County Health officials will continue to monitor local cases of COVID-19, and satisfy the concerns of the community in the face of a jump of 29 cases over three days. The number reflects the largest increase since testing began, but with only two of the 29 needing hospitalization, County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein assured the public that she was not concerned by the number, and that in fact more positive test are to be expected as testing processes have been improved.
“We are watching the case count closely,” Borenstein said. “This may seem like a stark contrast to what I communicated just two days about that we had a long time of very low numbers.”
With more than 30 years experience working with infectious disease, she brings a steadying gait to the forward progress for the county. With clamoring on both sides of the arguments of reopening, she forges ahead on a plan to maintain local hospital and healthcare capacity to serve the community in case of surges.
“We are not going to be overly reactive, over one day, two days or three days of relatively small numbers,” Borenstein said. “We are still watching these trends, closely. There are a number of factors that goes into what we are seeing. Particularly, we want to note that we have low numbers in our hospitals.”
The County continues to investigate every case of COVID-19 with detailed investigations and issue quarantine orders. Borenstein said that action will be a “hallmark to our management of this disease.”
“This will continue to spread in our community, we expect that,” Borenstein said. “We anticipate we will see some higher numbers, but is absolutely critical that we dig deeper into the meaning of these numbers of new cases.”
With 14 new positive tests overnight, and 29 in three days, the numbers are high for SLO County, but low compared to neighboring counties. With low numbers, the County is able to thoroughly investigate each case to determine the source and spread.
“The number doesn’t make us particularly happy, but the situation is reassuring,” Borenstein said. “All but one — who we haven’t had communication with yet — is a person-to-person spread. They all had a known already positive close contact. We are not seeing more spread in new areas unknown to us.”
Three of the new cases are children under 18, and Borenstein said that is not concerning as they are known to have contracted the disease from a family member with a known case.
“These new cases are not overly worrisome, but they are of note,” Borenstein said. “We must continue our diligence. [Reopening] will be done slowly, cautiously, and with all recommendations put in place to tamp down on the spread. We are continuing to move forward on a balanced approach to a phased reopening, sector by sector, in this community.”
As reopening takes shape, Borenstein reminded the community that an increase in new cases is expected, and that each will follow with an investigation and contact tracing.
In regards to the spike in cases in Paso Robles, and the North County in general, Borenstein again assuaged concerns.
“I still think in general terms, we have really low numbers, per capita, we don’t come close to our surrounding counties,” Borenstein said. “I really don’t put a lot of stock in the fact that [Paso Robles] has 15 or so more cases. The numbers we see are not overly concerning and do not impact our plans.”