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SLO Co. no longer under local health emergency

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Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 25, 2022

San Luis Obispo County is no longer under a local health emergency.

This comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is improving in the region.

“Our cases are down,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County health director. “Statewide hospitalizations are down almost by 50%. We're seeing similar effect in our county.”

Dr. Borenstein and County Administrative Officer Wade Horton signed documents on Friday ending the state of emergency approved by county supervisors.

“We think we're at a point at this time where we don't need the same rapid emergency response because we're on the down slope of this current surge,” Dr. Borenstein said.

“I think this marks a milestone and hopefully, a foundation where we can start to move forward, put COVID further in the rear view mirror,” Horton said.

The emergency order was declared on March 13, 2020.

“We didn’t have a case when we first declared it. Though we knew it was coming, we didn't know exactly what was coming. This disease was so new. We didn't know how deadly it would be, how serious it would be,” Dr. Borenstein said.

The following day, San Luis Obispo County announced its first case of COVID-19. Since then, there have been more than 52,000 confirmed cases in the county and more than 400 deaths.

“The emergency orders are in place to allow certain activities and purchases and contracts and assignments of staff to happen in rapid fire,” Dr. Borenstein explained.

“And the need for these emergency powers, they're really just not needed anymore,” Horton added.

At this time, the county no longer has disaster service workers from other county departments assigned to COVID-19 response and contact tracing is now only for congregate care settings.

Despite the local health emergency being lifted, locally-supported vaccinations will continue. Community testing will also still be available as it’s funded by the state. One of the four sites will be closed soon, however, due to lack of demand.

“People ask me all the time if we're going to see another surge, if there's going to be another variant. We have no way to predict that but we'll respond accordingly if we need to,” Dr. Borenstein said.

She said the local emergency can be brought back any time if needed.

The state health emergency is still in effect until the end of the next month. San Luis Obispo County still falls under that state of emergency so that means the county can use that as a funding resource if needed.

We reached out to San Barbara County Public Health Department to see if they have plans to lift their local health emergency anytime soon and we’re told public health leadership is still considering local conditions and regional metrics before deciding.

The declaration remains in place at this time.