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Health, Science and Technology

SLO County indoor mask mandate in effect; officials say pandemic is worse now than ever before

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San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein at a briefing Aug. 31

In a public briefing Tuesday, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein put into effect a mandatory mask mandate for all public indoor operations.

The mandate went into effect at midnight and has no set end date. It applies to all indoor public areas including grocery stores, restaurants and physical fitness centers.

Borenstein said the surge in cases this summer has only gotten worse, with more than 3500 COVID-19 cases documented in August alone. In the month of June, San Luis Obispo County saw just 163 cases.

Borenstein said the county is tracking 90 outbreaks in schools, long-term care facilities and businesses. She says this surge could completely overwhelm the local healthcare system.

“These numbers supersede anything that we have seen in this pandemic, including in our winter surge,” Borenstein said. “Total hospitalizations, total number of individuals in intensive care units, are the highest they've ever been in this COVID pandemic. And unlike in January, we are now fully open. So we have a higher risk of even further transmission.”

The mask mandate applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Borenstein says masks must cover the nose and mouth snuggly.

People two years old and under or those with a medical or mental health condition are exempt.

Several San Luis Obispo County healthcare officials spoke at the August 31 briefing, including the CEO of Tenet Health Central Coast, Mark Lisa, who urged cooperation with the new mandate.

“This is real. This is the worst that we've seen so far,” Lisa said. “The virus doesn't care how you vote. The virus doesn’t take its cues from social media. And the virus doesn’t engage in conspiracy theory. If you no longer want to wear masks, if you want our nation to get back to normal, if you want to go about your daily lives as before, then please for the time being wear a mask, maintain social distancing and get vaccinated.”

Borenstein said since June 15, almost 77% of documented COVID-19 cases in SLO County have been among people who are not fully vaccinated.

As of August 31, 284 people have died from the disease in San Luis Obispo County. 67 people are currently hospitalized. 20 of them are in the ICU.

To sign up for a vaccine appointment, visit myturn.ca.gov and for more information on COVID-19 cases in SLO county, visit the website emergencyslo.org.

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