Public health says no confirmed coronavirus cases in SLO County, yet

Mar 5, 2020

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department says despite reports, the novel coronavirus has not been confirmed in San Luis Obispo County. A local patient tested for the virus strain quickly recovered, according to health officials, and Thursday night, the department announced the test for COVID-19 came back negative.  

“What we have is a person who formally met testing criteria, nonetheless, is not someone [of whom] we had a high level of suspicion for testing,” Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s public health officer, told KCBX News Thursday afternoon. 

Borenstein said the biological specimens were sent to a state public health lab in the Bay Area, but in the next day or so, the county’s own testing facility will be up and running and able to test for COVID-19. That will mean results will be available a lot faster.

The county has been screening patients who have traveled to countries or cities with confirmed cases, or are suspected of being exposed to COVID-19.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune is reporting it was two patients at Twin Cities Hospital in Templeton whom the county tested for coronavirus.

Tenet Health, the company that operates Twin Cities, says it treats infectious diseases, but is not testing for coronavirus; only the county public health department can order a test at this point. But when a patient comes in to at least two area hospitals, staff are asking questions about recent travel and symptoms. Any patients who do have relevant symptoms are given masks and isolated.

Here in California, there are 53 confirmed cases as of Thursday. But for now, Borenstein denies there are confirmed coronavirus cases in San Luis Obispo County.

“Not that we are aware of,” Borenstein said. “And the reason I say it that way is I believe that we will have diagnosed cases. We may have cases out there now that are of such mild illness that they're not coming to attention. And we will continue to monitor the situation very closely, and we are absolutely assuring the public that when we do have a first case, we will make that information known immediately.”

The city of San Luis Obispo is getting ready for if and when the virus spreads, said spokesperson James Blattler.

“We've developed a continuity of operations plan that's currently being vetted out,” said Blattler. “[A plan] in response to a pandemic, and that's to make sure that the city can continue to provide essential services if the situation were to escalate.”

Coronavirus is transmitted from person to person within six feet of each other, through coughing, sneezing, or touching. Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and coughing. But those symptoms could be caused by the regular flu, which is still prevalent in the county says the public health department.

The county has set up a website, www.readyslo.org, to serve as a one-stop information center for the latest on the novel coronovirus.