SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein reiterated COVID-19 testing’s importance during the County’s weekly briefing on Sept 9.

“The importance of testing is simply to make sure that we identify all cases so that we can take action in public health,” Borenstein said. “I’ve heard many people say well if we don’t test, we won’t have these high numbers, we’ll be able to move forward but that isn’t a very good approach to not know where our infections are and how to prevent them from transmitting.”

SLO County is still experiencing, on average more than 20 cases a day, which is keeping it in the moderate purple tier of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“We need to get below that case number on average for two weeks before we can move into the next tier, which will allow more business openings and our schools to consider opening more fully,” she said.

The Blueprint looks at two metrics — the number of new positives cases per population and the positivity rate. 

“We do well on the positivity rate, but I also want to point out that with more testing, we can actually get some credit against our case rate,” Borenstein said.

Borenstein also relayed information from a survey asking people about COVID-19 testing. More than 3,300 people responded to the survey.

“It helped us get an idea of reasons why people might not be testing,” Borenstein said. “And I mentioned one of them, some concern about adding to negative metrics but there were also some key findings around people who thought perhaps it wasn’t safe or that it takes too much time or the results are not as meaningful.

“I wanted to talk about those components of testing and for our public to understand that it is safe, easy and free,” she added.

With respect to safe, Borenstein said they did get quite a few people who thought that getting tested put themselves at risk of contracting the virus.

“People should understand that we have trained professionals doing the testing at our community sites,” Borenstein said.

The actual COVID-19 test takes a few seconds, Borenstein said. It may be a little bit uncomfortable, but the people who are doing the testing are in full protective gear. There have been no cases reported of actually transmitting the virus through testing, Borenstein said.

“Nor are we aware of any cases that have occurred by virtue of going to a testing site,” Borenstein said. “I believe the environments and the test itself are quite safe.”

The test is fast in terms of getting an appointment, Borenstein said. People can both get same-day or, in some cases, next-day appointments.

“We welcome that for anyone experiencing symptoms or may think they have been exposed in the last 5 to 7 days — that is the best timing to be tested,” Borenstein said. “If you don’t have symptoms but think you may well have been exposed is to wait 5, 6, 7 days because that is how long it will take from exposure to test positive.”

The average turnaround time on the results is quicker now too, between 1-3 days, Borenstein said.

SLO County sites for community testing are:

• San Luis Obispo Veterans Hall, 801 Grand Ave.

• Morro Bay Veterans Hall, 209 Surf St.

• Arroyo Grande South County Community Center, 800 W. Branch St.

Individuals can continue to get tested through Urgent Care or their primary care provider.

“We continue to emphasize, please do not use emergency departments for purposes of testing unless you have a true medical emergency,” Borenstein said.

Information about community testing sites and making an appointment can be found online at https://www.emergencyslo.org/en/testing-locations.aspx.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles