After watching cases of COVID-19 rise in recent weeks, the San Luis Obispo County Health Department is urging everyone to go back to wearing masks indoors, as the coronavirus’ Delta variant has gotten a foothold here.
“People are strongly recommended to wear masks indoors in settings like grocery or retail stores, restaurants and bars, fitness centers, theaters, and family entertainment centers, even if they are fully vaccinated,” reads an Aug. 18 news release from the health department. “Businesses are urged to adopt universal masking for customers entering indoor areas of their businesses to provide better protection to their employees and customers.”
The County’s announcement comes after the State Department of Public Health mandated people who are not vaccinated wear face coverings indoors. The State is also requiring all health care workers and patients, senior care facilities, jails, public transportation and schools also wear masks indoors.
“The Delta variant is sweeping quickly through our community,” County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said, “and we need every tool we have to stop it. While vaccines remain our best tool against COVID-19, masking in indoor and crowded outdoor settings will help us curb the spread of this latest wave of infection.”
No Change Locally
With the County “strongly” recommending masks be worn indoors, the City of Morro Bay is following suit, though perhaps not as strenuously.
“It is a recommendation, not a requirement,” City Manager Scott Collins told Estero Bay News, “but we feel it is important that residents, employees of businesses, etc., wear masks when indoors with folks not part of their home, given the current rate of spread.”
He added that they “made the same strong recommendation for City staff and City offices and facilities.”
Collins called masks another line of defense against the virus, and, “…based upon the County Public Health recommendation and nationwide evidence, we strongly encourage folks to get vaccinated if they have not already.”
Cases on the Uptick
COVID-19 cases countywide have been on an upward trend for a few weeks now, as the dreaded “Delta Variant” has arrived here and is spreading.
In an Aug. 17 news release, the County said, “All cases sequenced in the past week were of the highly-contagious Delta variant. This finding is consistent with statewide data showing more than 90% of all strains identified were Delta in the month of July. Because this variant spreads more easily, rapidly infecting larger numbers of people, officials say it results in more people becoming severely ill.”
On Aug. 20, the County said 98% of the newest cases were the Delta Variant. The County reported 425 new cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed from Aug. 17-20. And three more people were reported to have died of COVID over the past couple of weeks, including the first person under-30 in SLO County.
One person was in his or her 20s, another was over 90, and the latest in their 60s, the County said. On Aug. 20 there were 42 people hospitalized with COVID, with 10 in intensive care units. The County’s pandemic death toll has now reached 274.
County Pushes Vaccine
“This is a painfully serious disease and it’s one we have the power to stop,” Dr. Borenstein said. She added that while it’s too late for the dead and hospitalized to get the vaccine, for everyone who still hasn’t taken the shot, “it’s not too late; you can protect yourself, protect the people you love, and help close the curtain on this terrible pandemic.”
The Health Department is now giving away $25 gift cards to those who get vaccinated at one of their three clinics — in Paso Robles at 723 Walnut Dr.; in Grover Beach at 286 South 16th St., Building B; and in SLO at 2191 Johnson Ave.
There’s also an upcoming “pop-up” vaccination clinic schedule for 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 30 at Cuesta College, Rm. 1400T (in the main gymnasium, use parking lot 5 around the back side of campus).
You must make an appointment in advance to get the shot through the County. Book an appointment online at: myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255. You’ll have to choose which clinic you want to go to, which could depend on which vaccine is being administered and where.
See: www.RecoverSLO.org/Vaccine to check the hours each clinic is open.
The myturn.ca.gov website is also supposed to have lists of pharmacies and private health clinics that are giving the shots as well. Or check with your local pharmacy about getting the vaccine.
Nearly 2/3rds Here Are Vaccinated
How is SLO County doing on the vaccine rollout? Not bad but there are still a lot of people who haven’t gotten the shot.
According to County stats (see: www.recoverslo.org/en/detailed-vaccine-stats), as of Aug. 15, some 60% of SLO County residents over 12 had been fully vaccinated, which means they’ve gotten both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose Johnson & Johnson shot. The vaccines have not been approved for anyone under 12.
Some 68% of those 12 and older have gotten one of the two-shot elixirs or the single J&J shot.
And 32% of those eligible haven’t gotten vaccinated.
The County Health Clinics have given over 170,600 vaccination doses to over 90,400 people. Some 82,300 are fully vaccinated and 7,800 are partially done.
SLO County has a resident population of some 282,484 (estimated) as of April 1, 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.