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Covid cases surge in SLO County; contact tracers ‘overwhelmed’

An at-home rapid test shows a positive result for COVID-19.
Rachel Showalter
An at-home rapid test shows a positive result for COVID-19.

The COVID-19 case count in San Luis Obispo County continues to climb, with the latest 14-day daily average the highest it’s been since January of 2021.

The county reported 2,021 new cases Tuesday, January 4 and 824 more by Friday, January 7, boosting the county’s 14-day daily average number of cases to 228.

That number is up from 72 cases just a week and a half prior.

“Our 14-day average just continues to increase day over and day and week over week unfortunately,” said SLO County Public Health Information Officer Michelle Shoresman.

She said this surge is likely due to holiday gatherings and travel, much like last year’s January surge.

“We’re seeing that again, although it was a bit delayed this time," Shoresman said. "We didn’t really start seeing the drastic increase until a week or two ago.”

Shoresman said case numbers in this surge are increasing faster than others have in the past.

The Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants and is now the dominant variant in the county, representing about 70 percent of recently sequenced cases.

Shoresman said it’s unclear what the path forward looks like for case counts right now.

“We don’t know if we’re at the top — if we’re still going up — or if we are going to start going down any time soon," Shoresman said. "That’s too hard to predict.”

According to the SLO County Public Health Department, COVID-19 case numbers are increasing so quickly that contact tracers are unable to keep up.

“Our contact tracers, quite frankly, are overwhelmed," Shoresman said. "The number of cases has come in at a rate that we have not been able to increase our staffing.”

Shoresman said contact tracing is now only being done for positive cases in individuals under the age of five, over the age of 65 and those in high risk populations.

She said the county’s website now has resources available for individuals who test positive to self-attest their ability to re-enter public settings after appropriate isolation or quarantine.

The county’s four testing sites are open five days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Walk-ins are available but appointments are recommended.

Shoresman said rapid tests are not available through the county right now, as demand is higher than the available supply.

She said vaccine appointments continue to be available at the county’s three clinics in Paso Robles, Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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