County Says Schools Can Reopen

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

October 23, 2020

San Luis Obispo County Health Department says local schools — kindergarten through high school — can now open for classes, and the State has handed down new edicts aimed at people throwing house parties.
On Oct. 6, SLO County announced that the county’s coronavirus numbers have held in the Governor’s “Red Tier” for reopening, signaling that schools can open for in-person classes.

“San Luis Obispo County’s K-12 schools have the option to reopen for modified in-person instruction according to the criteria listed in the State’s ‘Blueprint for a Safer Economy,’” reads a County news release.
“Because we have kept our COVID-19 transmission relatively stable,” County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said, “we have been consistently in the red tier for two weeks now. Local schools are not required to reopen for in-person instruction, but they may choose to reopen if they implement the State’s COVID-19 guidance for schools and school-based programs.”
The declaration will now go to the individual school boards for a decision on what to do to meet the Governor’s edict. Currently, are all doing online teaching.

The new rules aren’t exactly a green light. Under the State’s “School Reopening Framework,” schools that do open are not required to close if SLO County moves back to the highest, “Purple Tier,” which is the most restrictive level, but “should consider increasing screening and testing of staff.”

The County Public Health Department continues to work closely with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and local districts for opening local schools safely.
The County has been working with school districts and the County Office of Education but, “officials convey that many local districts decided to stay closed through the end of the calendar year, but some may reopen with approved reopening plans by County Public Health officials.” According to the County.

Schools may be having their restrictions eased but the Governor now has instructions on how to have a house party.
On Oct. 13, the State released the latest round of restrictions focusing on private gatherings that County health officials have previously fingered as adding to the spread of the virus locally.

“The guidance outlines rules for private gatherings that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” the County explained. “It focuses on attendance, location, behaviors, singing, chanting, shouting and live music.
“Anyone planning to host or participate in a private gathering must comply with the following requirements:
• Keep it outside;
• Keep it small (no more than three households present at one time);
• Don’t attend if you feel sick or are in a high-risk group;
• Practice physical distancing and hand hygiene (wash your hands frequently);
• Wear a face covering to keep COVID-19 from spreading.; and,
• Keep it brief.

“Many of the most recent cases of COVID-19 in SLO County have been traced to holiday celebrations, family parties, and other social gatherings,” Dr. Borenstein said. “The safest way to gather is to spend time with people in the same household or to gather virtually, but if you choose to host or attend a social gathering, please be sure to follow the rules laid out by State health officials.”

This new rules update the initial orders from March 16 and prior gatherings guidance. “It applies to private gatherings,” according to the County, “and all other gatherings not covered by existing sector guidance are prohibited.”
The guidelines even define what constitutes a risky gathering.

“Gatherings are defined as social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place. The risk of COVID-19 transmission increases when people from different households mix.”

The County continues to have testing sites at the Morro Bay Vet’s Hall (open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,); at the SLO Vet’s Hall (open Mondays-Fridays, 7-5); in Paso Robles at the Mid State Fairground’s Frontier Pavilion (open Mon., Thurs., and Sat., from 7 to 5, by appointment only). And testing is also being done in Arroyo Grande at the South County Regional Center (open Mondays-Fridays 7 to 7).

The testing is free to those without health insurance. If you have insurance they will ask for your account information, so they can bill the insurance, and there will be no co-pays.
For local information, State guidelines and updated statistics on COVID cases in SLO County, see:

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