SLO County set to reopen restaurants, shopping

May 20, 2020

The news many have been looking forward to finally came Monday: California’s governor announced it is now up to individual counties to proceed on reopening after the two-month pandemic shutdown. San Luis Obispo County officials say the county is ready to go.

UPDATE 05/20/20 3 P.M.:  As of today, dine-in restaurants and retails stores in San Luis Obispo County can start welcoming customers back inside. That’s after the county made the state’s list of those able to prove certain public health metrics. Santa Barbara County also submitted documentation that it meets the criteria. Monterey County has not. The greenlight came a day after several county residents made phone calls and voice messages to the county board of supervisors, urging reopening. One caller angrily expressed a full rejection of any further pandemic measures, another urged caution, particularly when it comes to visitors coming into the county from areas with higher infection rates.  

Initial story

“We have now heard definitively from the state department of public health that the state is now issuing new epidemiologic criteria for counties to meet, to be able to attest to moving forward into the full state ‘Resiliency Roadmap’ stage two,” San Luis Obispo County health officer Penny Borenstein announced Monday afternoon.

When it comes to COVID-19 case counts and hospitalization rates, the county meets the new criteria.

“In our last seven day period, we saw less than one percent of all of our testing in this county as having a positive result for COVID-19,” Borenstein said. “We feel that we are absolutely going to meet these criteria and be able to attest” to the state’s public health officer the county is ready to reopen.

That enables San Luis Obispo County to move into the next phase of reopening, meaning in-restaurant dining, in-store shopping and workers returning to their offices. But phase two of the state’s roadmap comes with plenty of distancing requirements for businesses, and groups of more than 10 people are still discouraged.

County officials say staff will be checking in on lodging businesses, to ensure they are adhering to the fifty percent capacity order that went into effect Sunday night, particularly throughout the next week and the coming Memorial Day weekend.

But for restaurants and shops, Borenstein says it’s just a matter of time, until it’s official that they can welcome diners and shoppers inside. The county board of supervisors unanimously signed off Tuesday on Borenstein’s public health certifications, and the green light is expected this week.

Borenstein also said the county will continue to test more people, and that schools are looking at offering some summer sessions. The alternative care center set up at Cal Poly will stay open and on standby should a resurgence of COVID-19 cases break out across the county.