County health officials warn that a spike in cases could lead to backsliding

SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein affirmed Tuesday, Sept. 22, that more San Luis Obispo County businesses can reopen indoor operations with modifications and capacity limits — per the state’s tiered, color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Econom — but warns of a potential backslide as new COVID-19 cases spike this week.

SLO County met the state’s red tier case rate and positivity rate criteria for two consecutive weeks. As a result, the risk of COVID-19 in SLO County has been downgraded from widespread to substantial. SLO County can now move from the purple tier — the most restrictive tier — to the red tier effective immediately.

“While we celebrate this small success, we must stay vigilant,” Dr. Borenstein said. “Our progress depends on each person in SLO County. We need everyone to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

The state’s Blueprint allows counties in the red tier to reopen indoor operations for some additional business sectors and allows for certain activities to resume. Local businesses must follow all state guidelines for their industry and self-certify that they are ready to reopen.

“Outdoor operations remain the safest environment to slow the spread of COVID-19 and should be supported whenever feasible,” Borenstein said. “If we see an increase in the spread of COVID-19 here, we will move back to purple and most indoor operations will close again very soon.”

Some of the businesses that can reopen indoor with modifications include:

  • Retail may increase indoor capacity from 25% to 50%.
  • Shopping centers (malls, destination centers, swap meets) can increase indoor capacity from 25% to 50% and reduced capacity food courts.
  • Personal care services are allowed to open indoors.
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums are allowed to open indoors with maximum capacity of 25%.
  • Places of worship are allowed to open indoors with maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Movie theaters are allowed to open indoors with maximum capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
  • Hotels and lodging are now allowed to open fitness centers at 10% maximum capacity.
  • Gyms and fitness centers can open indoors at 10% maximum capacity.
  • Restaurants can serve guests indoors with max capacity of 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

Recent case investigations have identified cases spread between different households at gatherings. The nature of these gatherings — bringing together people from multiple households for a prolonged time, often indoors or with shared food and beverages — creates the perfect environment for COVID-19 to spread easily and quickly.

All residents should take protective actions to limit the spread of COVID-19 in SLO County: wear a face covering in public, stay at least six feet from others outside of your household, stay home when you are sick, wash your hands often, and get tested for COVID-19.

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at 805-788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center at 805-543-2444 is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with COVID-19 questions.