Social distancing becomes ‘physical distancing,’ Cal Poly to become alternate hospitalization site

San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton and County Health Officer Penny Borenstein provided an update on Wednesday, March 25.

Horton began by recognizing a local podcast, noting a difference between “social distancing” and “physical distancing.”

The difference is visible when viewing friends walking around places like Atascadero Lake. They are socially connected, but physically distant — observing the six foot rule.

If you nee food for you or your family, visit or call the phone assistance line at 805-543-2444,” Horton said. “If you are a senior over 65 or have underlying health issues, give us a call. We will be making deliveries to about 355 households tomorrow.”


Horton also called out for childcare to assist with needs.

“We are calling on existing childcare providers,” Horton said. “If you are young, healthy and ready and able to serve, let us know how you can help.”

Over the past week, numbers of cases have doubled, but overnight the increase was low — a jump from 42 to 46 total cases represented less than a 10 percent increase. Of the 46 cases, two are hospitalized and one is in ICU. The rest are recovered or in recovery at home — seven have been reported as recovered. There have been no COVID-19 related deaths in SLO County.

Borenstein said it is expected to have a slower day as a coincidence, and not necessarily a result of a lapse in disease spread. She added that the expectation is still an exponential jump in cases in the county.

Borenstein called out to professional medical volunteers, and “any community member” who has skills or expertise to help, including administrative experience.

Potential volunteers can apply at

The numbers of cases are higher in San Luis Obispo County than in Santa Barbara and Ventura, and Borenstein said because they are sending more tests out to more distant labs, they may not be getting results as fast.

“It may be that our numbers are higher due to more aggressive testing,” Borenstein said, “and not so much the existence of disease [in the areas].”

Horton announced that Cal Poly will be a site for hospital bed expansion as needs grow.

“It’s going to be Cal Poly,” Horton said. “It will be the rec center. We will have to run extra power and manifold oxygen.”

Horton served a clear warning to those who are socially connecting, but failing to physically distance — public parks and other open spaces could be closed if guidelines are not followed.

“We do not want to shut down trails and golf courses,” Horton said, “but we will do what we need to do if individuals do not comply with physical distancing rules. To flatten the curve, we need to physically distance.”

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