San Luis Obispo County’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic continues to show great improvement with cases dropping and hospitalizations down to single digits, and the Health Department has opened up vaccinations to people who are old enough to drive.

Teens Can Get the Shot

The Health Department on April 7 announced that anyone 16-older was now able to sign up and get the COVID vaccine. “This opens up the registry to about 54,000 additional San Luis Obispo County community members,” said the County’s COVID spokeswoman, Michelle Shoresman in a news release.

The County is also still prioritizing vaccines for those at risk of bad outcomes — based on age and health conditions — should they catch the disease.
The County Health Officer said it was good news. “This is a milestone we have been looking to for the past year,” Dr. Penny Borenstein said, “and I encourage everyone in our community — including those who have been eligible for some time — to take this opportunity, get the vaccine, and help put this pandemic behind us.”

The County’s three vaccination sites — at the Paso Robles Fairgrounds, the South County Community Center in Arroyo Grande, and at Cuesta College’s Hwy 1 campus — continue to vaccinate people for free.
You must go to the County COVID wesbite and register for an appointment. They will notify you when you can come in.
Most of the vaccines are actually two shots, taken a month apart, so when the first shot is given, you should make an appointment for the second.
However, if you are under-18, the County said you have to get the single-shot Pfizer vaccine because it is currently the only one approved for minors. And if you are a minor, your parents must come with you to get vaccinated.

If you were thinking about going to the pharmacy for a shot, the County said it might not be free. “Please talk with your local pharmacy about any vaccine administration fees they may charge,” the County said, “and check to make sure you are eligible under the guidelines they are following.”

Clots Halt J&J Shots

And in case readers were worried that vaccinations were going too smoothly, one of the serums has been pulled off the proverbial shelf, after a small handful people nationwide developed a rather severe complication.
The County announced April 13 that it was temporarily halting giving Johnson & Johnson’s COVID vaccine, while further studies are done on an rare complication.

“County officials are following CDC and FDA recommendations,” the news release said, “to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as federal officials review six cases in which people developed a rare type of blood clot after getting the vaccine.”
Some 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had already been administered when the complications were identified.

“While adverse events like these blood clots appear to be extremely rare,” Dr. Borenstein said, “we appreciate the agencies’ full focus on the health of our communities and will await further guidance from the CDC and the FDA before administering any further doses of the single-dose vaccine.”
The side effect involves a type of blood clotting called, “cerebral venous sinus thrombosis” or CVST and has been discovered in women ages 18-48. Symptoms appear about 13 days after vaccination. The County said it had already administered 2,200 doses of the J&J vaccine at its three clinics.
Now, while six out of 6.8 million is statistically insignificant, the County said the CSD was acting out of an abundance of caution. The J&J vaccine has also been halted in many European countries, as well, for the same reason.

Dr. Borenstein said, “If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination, you should contact your health care provider. “ She expected to have an update soon after the CDC’s advisory panel meets to discuss the clotting issue.

The County continues administering two other vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer.

Utility Relief Programs to Expire

If the coronavirus pandemic response has left you short on paying your bills, one utility company is urging its customers to act now before special virus relief programs run out.

“As the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic start to subside, Pacific Gas & Electric Company reminds customers with past-due balances to explore available financial-assistance programs now, before the customer protections put in place during the pandemic end on June 30,” the company said in an April 9 news release.

Among the virus relief programs is suspending disconnections for customers that fall behind on their bills.
Readers should call (800) 743-5000 today if you have an outstanding balance. “We have been working with customers with past-due balances for more than a year,” the company said, “and will continue these efforts months after the protections expire. PG&E will not initiate disconnections immediately after the protections end.”

The relief protections have been in place since March 2020 when the pandemic started in the U.S. So far some 1.6 million payment plans have been reached between PG&E and its customers, which include gas and electric service in much of Northern California but just electricity in SLO County, where SoCal Gas Co., has the natural gas franchise.

PG&E said from February 2020 to February 2021 the number of residential customers with past-due balances has grown nearly 30%.

PG&E said it will continue to try and reach customers with over due bills focusing on the looming expiration date for the relief programs, and “helping customers understand the status of their account, offering helpful resources and enabling customers to stay current through ongoing support and financial assistance programs.”

PG&E submitted its plan to the California Public Utilities Commission in early April for its consideration and approval. “Proactive contact with customers during the pandemic has saved customers more than $5 million just by changing their rate plan,” the company claimed.
For more information about PG&E’s pandemic assistance programs, see: www.pge.com/covid-19.
To register for the vaccine, and for updates on COVID-19 in SLO County, see: www.readySLO.org or call the Public Health Information Line at (805) 788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center is at (805) 543-2444 and available Mondays-Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.