San Luis Obispo County health officials issue shelter-at-home, 7 coronavirus cases confirmed

Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 10:38:35-04

San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials announced an order Wednesday for all county residents to shelter in their homes.

The shelter-at-home order goes into effect on Thursday, March 19 at 5 p.m. and will remain in place until April 17. Officials add that the order will be reviewed every 14 days.

County officials say this means all public gatherings outside of homes are strictly prohibited. Essential government operations and essential businesses will remain open, including grocery stores, gas stations, and banks.

San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton said the intent of the order is to ensure the maximum number of people self-isolate at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 while also enabling essential services to continue.

"The actions we are taking will allow us to get back to normal as soon as possible," Horton said.

County Counsel Rita Neal explained at a news conference Wednesday which types of activities will be allowed to continue under the order:

SLO County Counsel Rita Neal explains shelter-at-home order

Click here to read a full text of the video.

He added that residents are encouraged to comply voluntarily but violation of the order could be a misdemeanor.

The order is not a shelter-in-place, which is an order to barricade yourself inside your home. This shelter-at-home order is to help prevent the spread.

"If you're out walking your dog, or if you're out surfing by yourself, or if you're with another person, just maintain that 6-foot distance," Horton said. "The goal is to limit transmission. So yes, you will be able to go out and surf and go hiking. What we don't want is large congregations of people that allow for disease transmission."

San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said social distancing should be used in public, not necessarily within your own home.

"We consider social distancing to not include family units because they are already going to be living in circumstances where social distancing within the home is not possible," Borenstein said.

7th positive case confirmed

At the press conference, health officials announced one more coronavirus case in the county. The total number of cases is now seven with three in North County, three in South County, and one along the coast. County officials anticipate additional cases in the days to come.

Borenstein said the newest patient is an individual in their 40s with underlying medical conditions.

She said all of the patients are at home under isolation orders and are recovering.

County testing capacity returns

After a delay on Tuesday, Dr. Borenstein said the the county's public health lab is back at full testing capacity. She said they have enough coronavirus testing supplies for the next few days and expect to receive additional materials to continue operating at a pace of 50 specimens per day.

Dr. Borenstein said, to date, the county has conducted more than 200 tests. An unknown number of tests have also been conducted at private labs in the area, and Borenstein said outpatient providers are encouraged to use private labs in order to reserve county testing for the most critical patients.

"Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best"

Horton said Wednesday that he authorized the emergency purchase of 100 additional ventilators for the county at a cost of a half-million dollars.

Dr. Borenstein added that the county has been evaluating the capacity of the local healthcare system. At this time, they have 60 ICU beds and 450 med surg beds with material available to set up alternative sites for hospital-based care.

"We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Borenstein said.