SAN LUIS OBISPO — COVID-19 cases, deaths and outbreaks continue to surge to new highs in San Luis Obispo County.

Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein pleaded for everyone to take the pandemic seriously.

“At the end of the day, it really is all of our residents that have the power in your hands to determine our future with this virus,” Borenstein said during the County’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Dec. 9. “We are not going to make it go away. We are working very hard on vaccination. But it is having its way with us and we need to turn that around and all take it seriously and turn it back, turn it down.”

Borenstein pointed out that SLO County reported 106 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and that pushed the County to 7,071 cases — a total case increase of 10% since her last briefing.


On Saturday, Dec. 5, the County reported 186 cases, a new single-day high, surpassing the 128 reported on Nov. 7.

December’s new cases are continuing the upward spike seen in November when the County recorded 30% of its total cases in a single month.

“We would like very much to be done with the virus, but it is not done with us. This is the time, if you haven’t been paying attention for nine or 10 months, this is the moment in our County where things are getting real.

The County is dealing with over 20 COVID-19 outbreaks, most of them in skilled nursing facilities in long-term care units, Borenstein said.

“We are now seeing an uptick again, of not insignificant numbers, over 40 at our California Men’s Colony,” she said. “We are seeing a large rise in cases at Atascadero State Hospital. We have four fire stations that have been impacted by COVID disease.”

Some of the long-term care facilities are seeing incredible impacts — a hundred percent of their residents in some cases have tested positive for COVID.

“That is certainly getting our attention,” Dr. Borenstein said.

On Wednesday, the County reported three people’s deaths were due to COVID-19 bringing the total to 45. One person was in their 60s, one in their 70s and one in their 80s, and all three were vulnerable to severe illness because of underlying health conditions.

“Our county is no longer the completely unscathed community,” Borenstein said. “We have prided ourselves pretty consistently on not seeing the impacts that others have and we are now beginning to see that.”

In the past six days alone, San Luis Obispo County has had seven individuals who have lost their lives due to COVID.

Borenstein said they were waiting on the death certificates of seven others.

“Right now, we have seven such individuals who have died with COVID and our presumption based on the circumstances is that all of these will become additions to our now 45 individuals in this County who have died from COVID,” she said.

Active cases on Wednesday in the County were at 948 — the second-highest since the pandemic began. A large majority of those people, 930, are recovering at home.

In total, 86% of the people who tested positive for the virus have recovered. As of Wednesday, that number stood at 6,072.

Concerning too for Dr. Borenstein was the number of people with COVID-19 needing hospital care. There were 18 people in County hospitals due to COVID-19, including seven in intensive care.

“That ties our all-time high for intensive care unit utilization for COVID patients,” Borenstein added.

A significant number because on Saturday, there was just one COVID patient in intensive care and total ICU capacity — all causes — is what triggers the regional stay-at-home order.

San Luis Obispo County is part of the Southern California Region. The entire region is currently under the stay-at-home order after its collective capacity fell below 15% over the weekend.

SLO County’s ICU capacity was at 40% and there were 31 people in intensive care for all causes, Borenstein said.

Borenstein reiterated the seriousness of the virus.

“I hear that 99.9 percent recover, it’s a mild flu, most of the people don’t even get sick at all — many of those things are true,” she said. “But they do not refute the fact that 20,000 people in California have died from this disease and we are coming up on 300,000 Americans who have died from this disease. And that is 10 to 15 times higher than an average flu season.”

After laying out the dismal numbers, Borenstein circled back to what she’s been asking the community to do for the past nine to 10 months — wear a mask and socially distance.

“I’m imploring our community to find that sweet spot between supporting our businesses, supporting financially our friends and neighbors and still not taking risks with this virus that is surging right now everywhere in this country, including our own county,” Borenstein said.