COVID on the Run — Reopening Has Begun

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.

June 16, 2021

The coronavirus pandemic is clearly on the run in San Luis Obispo County and life is returning to near normal, though some restrictions remain in effect.

As of June 15, California officially lifted the statewide tier system and moved Beyond the Blueprint. What that means:

  • California’s mask mandate is lifted in all public areas for fully vaccinated individuals although they are still required in certain settings such as public transit, K-12 schools, healthcare facilities, state and local correctional facilities and detention centers, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers
  • Businesses may ask patrons to show proof of vaccination status or ask them to wear a mask
  • All capacity restrictions will be lifted except for those conducting “mega events” which are characterized by large crowds greater than 5,000 (indoors) and 10,000 (outdoors)

To keep up on current guidelines, which could be somewhat fluid until things play out, go to
Governor Gavin Newsom stated at a June 8 news conference that he would not lift the state of emergency he declared in March 2020.
He said it was because the virus had not been entirely eradicated in California, even though the numbers of new infections have seemingly dropped off a cliff. His declaration would also seem to fly in the face of new CDC guidelines that call for reopening the country.

We Were Yellow

For several weeks SLO County had been counted in the Governor’s “Orange Tier,” in the blueprint matrix, which allowed most businesses to further open up and in the case of restaurants, make more use of their indoor dining rooms.
On June 9, the County moved down to the least restrictive “Yellow Tier.”
According to the County Health Department Yellow, allowed “expanded capacity at gyms, movie theaters, indoor businesses, wineries, breweries and distilleries, and a host of other operations. Bars that do not serve food can reopen indoors with a maximum capacity of 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is fewer.”

“We have come so far as a community,” County Health Officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein, said, “from facing widespread transmission of COVID-19 that kept us in the most restrictive Purple Tier, to slowing the spread of disease to reach the least restrictive Yellow Tier.
“I commend everyone who has worked hard to help us reach this milestone, and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated so we can put this pandemic fully in the past.”

County Still Vaccinating

The County’s three vaccination clinics — in Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande and Cuesta College — were all shutdown in early June by the County, which administered some 165,000 shots to some 87,000 people in just the 6 months they were open (since December 2020).
Dr. Borenstein said, “This has been truly historic work and I extend my sincerest gratitude to the volunteers and staff who have made it possible. In the face of this tremendous challenge, I’m proud to say our community acted swiftly to provide this life-saving vaccine on a large scale as quickly as we received it.”

County Administrative Officer Wade Horton, who is also the County Emergency Services Director, echoed her praises. “The impact of this work is monumental. We’ve gone from facing thousands of active cases at a time to a few dozen, from planning for a surge that might overwhelm our hospitals to now seeing steady health care capacity. The results of this vaccination effort have been swift and dramatic, and we have many incredible men and women in our community to thank for that.”

Some 612 “Medical Reserve Corps” volunteers — mainly retired doctors, nurses and pharmacists, and fire department paramedics — contributed over 28,000 hours to the clinics.

There were also “Disaster Service Workers” most from different County departments, and State-funded traveling medical volunteers also helped with the County’s vaccination efforts.The SLO County Incident Management Team set the clinics up, as well as an overflow emergency field hospital that was set up at the Cal Poly Rec Center at a cost of several million dollars but was never put into service, as the pandemic never stretched local hospital capacities over their limits.

By June 4, the County was touting that some 60% of the County’s adult population had been vaccinated.

The County continues to provide COVID-19 vaccination at its local County Health Clinics in SLO, Paso Robles and Grover Beach. Vaccines are also available through local pharmacies, with the costs being billed to insurance carriers.
To schedule a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Public Health Clinic, see: or call (833) 422-4255. To find other local vaccine providers, see: or

For updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, visit or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at (805) 788-2903. A phone assistance center is at (805) 781-5500 and available Mondays-Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with COVID-19 questions.

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