SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- San Luis Obispo County appears headed back into the state's most restrictive phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan.
On Thursday, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said it was "reasonably likely" the county would soon move backwards into Phase 1 (Purple tier) of California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
"We are collectively going in the wrong direction with COVID-19" said Borenstein during Thursday's Public Health press conference. "We are seeing a dramatic rise in cases. We are on course to be at our worst level since this pandemic began."
On Thursday, the county reported 72 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in November to 662.
For the entire month of October, San Luis Obispo County recorded a total of 681 cases.
"It is reasonably likely we will be seeing ourselves back in the purple tier in a couple of weeks," said Borenstein. "We want to have businesses thinking about his and preparing as they have been throughout this pandemic. I know they are probably exhausted by opening and closing, and opening and closing, and the implication for business model is significant."
The purple phase would directly impact many business, including restaurants, gyms, fitness centers and museums, which would all be restricted to outdoor operations only.
In addition, retailers would have to reduce capacity numbers of customers allowed inside.
"When we do hit the purple tier, whether it's in one week or in two more weeks," said Borenstein. "There's an allowance for an additional three days before these adjustments need to be made."
For schools, those that are already open can remain open with greater adherence to safety measures, while schools that have not reopened must remain closed.
Elementary schools for children in kindergarten through 6th grades can still apply for a waiver through that reopening process.
"Special needs students, cohorts, there is a lot of student activities going on on campuses, and our schools have been doing a great job at managing that," said Borenstein. "We are not seeing outbreaks in that setting at this time. I would really like to see schools move forward as quickly as they can, so we're going to support that opportunity."
While the county is on the cusp of moving backwards into the purple tier, Borenstein did point out there are some encouraging numbers to report.
"The good news is our hospitalization rates remain low," said Borenstein. "We have five people in the hospital and two in intensive care. In our county, for whatever reasons, see less acute or less severe disease, and we see that though the disease is spreading fast, many of our cases are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic."