San Luis Obispo County has further opened up its COVID-19 vaccination program, as new case numbers continue to be relatively low and deaths drop significantly from the virus, but the County continues to be in the second-most restrictive tier of the Governor’s coronavirus pandemic response.

Variant Detected

On March 19, the SLO County Health Department announced that the State Health Department said a county resident had been infected with the “B.1.1.7 variant” of the coronavirus but it was possibly an isolated case.

“This individual,” a County news release said, “has completed their isolation period and is no longer infectious. County officials are investigating this case further, and no other cases of this variant have been identified in SLO County.”
County Health Officer, Dr. Penny Borenstein said residents must continue to fight spread of the virus. “Continue to wear your mask in public,” Dr. Borenstein said, “stay physically distanced from those who don’t live with you, get tested for COVID-19 and get vaccinated against COVID-19 if you are eligible. These actions will continue to protect you from spreading the variants.”

Concerning Variants

SLO County, it was announced March 19, has vaccinated over 100,000 people, an impressive number considering that the population is about 233,000 but not enough to drop out of the “Red Tier” (substantial number of infections), in the Governor’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

“We are so close to ending this pandemic and we can get there with your help,” Dr. Borenstein said.

The available vaccines — four are now being distributed — appear to be working well.

“At this time vaccines in use in the U.S. appear to remain effective against severe impacts of COVID-19,” the County said, “even against these variants. As more cases of the variant appear, additional information is being gathered.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been studying these variants that have cropped up in other countries and recently showed up in the U.S.
“On March 17,” the County said of CDC, “further escalated the variants B.1.429 and B.1.427 from ‘variants of interest’ to ‘variants of concern,’ and both are prominent statewide. More than seven of these variant cases were identified in SLO County weeks ago, before these variants were classified as variants of concern.”

Vaccinations Opening Up

With its three vaccination sites still doing a brisk business and the serums now being made available at hospitals, medical clinics and pharmacies, the County lowered the age limit for people to get the shots.

On March 22, the County lowered the age limit to 50-older, and a week later, it dropped the limit to 30-older. You’ll still have to schedule an appointment, no matter where you get the shot.

The new age limit comes rather quickly in just a couple of months, as it began last December with first responders and medical personnel first in line for the vaccine.
Elderly people 85-older were next, along with seriously ill people and others with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, among others.

But while anyone 30-older can register, the County said when they can come in will depend on its vaccine supply.

Press Briefings Cut

The County on March 26 announced that it would be cutting its weekly news conferences to every-other week starting April 7.

“Going forward,” said Public Information Officer, Michelle Shoresman, “our regularly scheduled briefings will occur every other Wednesday.” Those briefings are held at 3:15 p.m. at the County’s “Joint Information Center” at 1133 Kansas Ave. The briefings are online with some reporters attending in person.

The Website will continue to have updated COVID stats and information.

New Case Numbers Slow

On Friday, April 2, the County reported just 25 new cases bringing the total since last March to 20,547 cases.

Statewide California hit 3,573,074 cases and nationwide the numbers now top 30,357,579. And worldwide there’s been a staggering 129,215,179 cases.

SLO County reported 215 active cases as of April 2 with 20,072 people recovered from the virus. The death toll in SLO County is now 256 people.

Hospitalizations are at the lowest since the pandemic started with zero COVID patients in intensive care units. The County reported 38 ICU beds in the county and 14 have non-COVID patients with 63% of the available beds unused. Since last March, 705 total SLO County residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19.
Five COVID patients were hospitalized countywide and one SLO County resident is in the ICU at Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, according to the County COVID website.

As for deaths, 124 of the 256 people whose deaths are being attributed to COVID were 85-older. Some 103 of those folks were hospitalized and recovered.

Some 95 deaths were among people 65-84 with 275 hospitalized. There have been 29 people ages 50-64 who have died of COVID with 173 having been hospitalized for their illness.

Eight people ages 30-49 have died and 118 were hospitalized. And there have been zero deaths among people 0-29, though 28 from 18-29-year olds have been hospitalized and eight people under-18 were hospitalized.

In the Estero Bay News’ readership area, Morro Bay has had a total of 418 cases; Los Osos 477; Cayucos 68; in Cambria there have been 177, and tiny San Simeon has had 21 cases.

Paso Robles leads the County with 4,045 cases with San Luis Obispo second at 3,993.

The California Men’s Colony prison has had 2,384 COVID cases, according to the County, and Cal Poly (on campus) is at 373 confirmed cases.

For pandemic response updates, see the County’s website at: 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 daily, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with questions related to COVID-19.