As COVID-19 cases in San Luis Obispo County continue to climb, health officials decided to come together for a press conference Thursday to give residents an update on what they are seeing.
It's been quite a while since the SLO County Public Health Department had a live briefing about COVID-19 - the last one was back in June - but health officials say it was necessary to do one now with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise.
"It is really with some disappointment that I come before you at this moment in time. We had hoped to have a longer stretch since we last saw the pandemic really get under control,” said SLO County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
Dr. Borenstein says the county’s COVID-19 case rate was looking up when they had their last briefing back on June 15 but since then, infections have increased dramatically.
On Tuesday, the county reported a total of 253 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous seven days, nearly double the number of cases reported the prior week.
For unvaccinated people, the July 7-14 seven-day average of new cases was 13.1 cases per 100,000 people.
For those who are vaccinated, the case rate was 2 cases per 100,000 people.
On June 15, the county reported 261 deaths and went a month without any new deaths. Now, the death toll is 265.
"Families are suffering from a disease that is in fact preventable certainly in terms of death," Dr. Borenstein said.
That's why a push to get residents vaccinated is now a focus for county leaders, they said Thursday.
"Getting a vaccine is not a political decision. It is a medical decision. We have lost leaders in our ag community to this disease," said Brent Burchett of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.
Health officials say they recognize the hesitancy from those who do not want to get the vaccine.
"My message is really to those parents who are hesitant about this, please, I just beg you, please get your teens vaccinated," said pediatrician Dr. Rene Bravo.
According to Dr. Bravo, although teens are not a population of high risk, they do spread COVID-19, and breakthrough cases are being seen throughout the county among those who are vaccinated.
According to Dr. Borenstein, out of all new cases since January 1, 98% have been in people who are unvaccinated.
The county will also offer cash incentives starting in August that will last through the end of the month for those who decide to get vaccinated at any county Public Health Clinic as well as mobile sites.
According to health officials, of 132 deaths caused by COVID-19 in 2021, only one person was fully vaccinated. They add that person had underlying health complications.