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SLO County public health officer explains why there is no countywide mask order

Dr. Penny Borenstein
San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The use of face coverings or masks has become one of the biggest debates nationwide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, a Santa Barbara County order went into effect mandating the use of coverings in many situations, including inside of retail businesses, restaurants, government agencies, public transportation and many other locations.

Failure to comply with the order could result in a misdemeanor charge that includes a $1,000 fine and/or jail time.

The order comes at a time when the county is experiencing significant numbers in cases.

As of Tuesday, there were 653 confirmed cases (not including the Lompoc federal prison) and 10 deaths.

In adjacent San Luis Obispo County, the numbers are far less.

Currently, there are 266 cases in the the county, including three individuals who are in the hospital.

The county lists 237 people as recovered from the disease, representing a recovery rate of 89 percent.

There has been one death in the county, which was reported in early April.

On Wednesday, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein was asked about mask use while speaking at the county's COVID-19 press briefing.

"I get asked that all the time why is this county not going forward with an order for masks," said Borenstein. "The main reason is our numbers don't dictate at this moment that we need to dictate that to people."

Borenstein has long pointed out the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department recommends face coverings when physical distancing cannot be observed.

"The utilization of masks as an additional protective measure is something that we should all do when necessary," said Borenstein. "When you cannot maintain the other measures, in particular, social distancing, or physical distancing."

She added that while there is no current face covering order in the county, there could potentially be one in the future.

"We reserve that for a situation if we seem to be going in the wrong direction with our disease spread, but right now we continue to have very low numbers," said Borenstein.

California / Community / Health / Safe at Home / Safety / San Luis Obispo County

Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at KCOY|KEYT|KKFX.