Restrictions tying up practically everything from which businesses can open to who can go fishing in response to the coronavirus pandemic, appear to be loosening the knots somewhat and could soon be dropped almost entirely in San Luis Obispo County.

In Morro Bay the Harbor Department changed its rules for using the boat launch ramp, removing a residency provision that limited access to San Luis Obispo County residents.

Recreational fishing opened April 1 for rockfish as well as salmon. Commercial salmon season opened May 1.

In a May 1 updated notice from the Harbor Department, the City said, “Morro Bay Harbor Department will conduct a trial opening of the public boat launch ramp in order to provide recreational fishing opportunities. In order for the launch ramp to remain open, we MUST adhere to the State and County Shelter at Home Orders, which specify recreating in your own neighborhood and limiting discretionary travel.”

Back on April 20 the notice that opened the launch ramp limited use to: “…San Luis Obispo County residents only in order to provide recreational fishing opportunities.”

Such a rule is inherently unconstitutional, violating the 14th Amendment guarantee to equal protection (enforcement) of the law. The City kept the rule in place for about 10 days before the residency restriction was dropped.

There are still restrictions in place, they are:
• The launch ramp will be open to recreational and commercial vessels with restricted hours each day from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
• The Fish Cleaning Station and Rinse Down Station are CLOSED, you must clean your fish and boat at home;
• Physical distancing guidelines must be followed to the greatest extent possible and face masks are encouraged when outside your vehicle; and,
• Parking fees will be collected for the yellow trailer stalls; $6 per day or annual pass available at the Harbor Office.

In another development, with restaurants still mostly closed and only filling takeout orders, demand for the commercial fish catch has been interrupted significantly.

So several commercial fishermen have begun selling their catch direct to the public, setting up sales stations on the Beach Street floating docks.

Back on April 20, the County also opened up other businesses — non-urgent surgery and outpatient practices, construction, and dog grooming.

SLO County announced May 8 that it had “moved into Stage 2” of its phased reopening plan, the “Resilience Roadmap.” That followed the Governor’s announcement to allow retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup, as well as the associated manufacturing and logistics related to retail, according to the County’s announcement.

“The State has also outlined a process that allows counties to move more quickly through Stage 2 if they are able to show progress around key readiness criteria and health metrics.”

Supervisors and officials with County Health and both Tenet and Dignity Health, which own the four area hospitals, all signed a letter sent to the State Health Department “attesting to the County’s readiness to proceed down this path,” the County news release said. Gov. Gavin Newsome had already rejected SLO County’s first appeal to allow reopening of the economy under its own plan.

That same day, Morro Bay adopted the Governor’s edict and allowed bookstores, toy stores, florists, clothing stores and music stores to reopen with curbside pickup only. However, “Customers will not be allowed into stores.”

The City added, “Plans for further re-opening of the County and state are under development. SLO County developed a re-opening plan over the past several weeks, with input from 240 stakeholders, under guidance from and overseen by SLO County Public Health Officer, Penny Borenstein.

“The County is working collaboratively with the State on that effort and continues to follow the Governor’s Stay at Home order.”

In another announcement, the County indicated it’s ready to open more and asked the State for permission to do so under it’s own reopening plan

“In a 5-0 vote,” County spokeswoman, Michelle Shoresman, wrote, “the Board of Supervisors approved the submittal of an attestation by County Public Health Officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein, to demonstrate the readiness of San Luis Obispo County to loosen restrictions and reopen businesses and the community based on public health criteria set forth by the State.”

If the County’s attestation is approved by the State (Department of Public Health) and the local epidemiologic situation remains stable, Shoresman said, the County will allow in-store retail and in-restaurant dining to reopen.

“SLO County has done everything right,” Dr. Borenstein said. “We have sheltered, we have planned, we have prepared. We are now advocating and attesting to the State that SLO County is ready to move forward with reopening safely, responsibly.”

SLO County in April set up a 165-bed emergency hospital for COVID-19 patients, in anticipation of what was predicted to be a potential tsunami wave of patients needing medical care.

The idea, which was carried across the nation, was to have beds available for virus overflow patients, so as to not overwhelm the local hospitals.

That emergency hospital was up in the Cal Poly Recreation Center and was planned, designed and installed in just a few weeks by a task force the County formed through the Health Department and Public Works with input form local contractors and hospital officials from Tenet and Dignity.

The 165-bed hospital was the initial step in a multi-step plan to have more and more beds set up — eventually to total more than 900 — as the pandemic sickened more and more people.

But the big wave of illnesses hasn’t thus far materialized and the emergency hospital has not yet been needed, as SLO County hospitals have handled the patient influx with beds to spare.

Indeed, in at least one hospital, nurses and other staff had their hours cut or were laid off mainly due to medical services like elective surgeries and even cancer treatments, being suspended for nearly 2 months (now opened up again).

Meanwhile, Morro Bay was credited with its seventh COVID-19 patient over the May 9-10 weekend. The City, as reported by the County Health Department, had recorded just six patients for over a month.

As readers can see, the situation with the virus shutdown and shelter-at-home orders changes almost daily. Go online to: www.readyslo.org for updates from SLO County; and to: www.morrobayca.gov/covid19 for updates from the City of Morro Bay.