The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department "strongly recommends" - but is not mandating - that everyone wear masks indoors in public places to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Health officials say people should wear masks indoors at places like grocery and retail stores, restaurants and bars, fitness centers, theaters, and family entertainment centers even if they are fully vaccinated.
At a press conference on Wednesday, County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein asked business owners to again require that employers and customers wear masks inside their establishments.
"I am urging all of our business owners and all owners of any public setting or venue operators to go along with what I am asking them for this moment in time in the, hopefully, peak of the surge, but we don't know yet, to take this additional action at this time," Dr. Borenstein said.
Currently, the California Department of Public Health mandates face coverings for everyone in healthcare settings, senior care settings, jails, public transportation, and schools. Outside of those sectors, the state only requires people who are unvaccinated to wear face coverings indoors, but several other counties have reinstated mask mandates for everyone.
"There is a lot of research about the effectiveness of this," Dr. Borenstein said. "I would not be asking of the public to do so if we did not have the documentation that it really makes a difference and hopefully you all can recognize that since we all took our masks off in the middle of June, we saw dramatic increases in spread."
SLO County Public Health officials say the county's case rate is currently 33.9 cases per 100,000 people, the highest it's been since January 2021.
Health officials say the COVID-19 vaccine is still effective in preventing infection and serious illness and they are encouraging people to get vaccinated.
"That is our ticket out of this," Dr. Borenstein said.
She said 60% of the county's eligible population is now fully vaccinated. Statewide, about 65% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
For more information on the county's coronavirus response, visit readyslo.org.