SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Improving COVID-19 numbers in San Luis Obispo County could allow it to move ahead from the most restrictive tier in the state's reopening plan into the next phase as soon as next week.
During Wednesday's San Luis Obispo County COVID-19 press briefing, Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein announced the county is close to moving from the Purple tier into the Red tier.
In order for a county to move ahead in the state's four-tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy, it must meet three separate metrics.
Metrics in the reopening plan include, case rate per 100,000, testing positive rate, and the health equity indicator.
As of Wednesday, San Luis Obispo County had a case rate of 19.3 per 100,000, which is in the Purple tier.
In order to quality for the Red tier, the case rate must be below seven per 100,000.
While the county's case rate is firmly placed in the Purple tier, the other two metrics are faring significantly better.
"The testing positive rate in our county is quite good," said Borenstein. "It is 4.5% and that in fact puts us for that metric in the Orange tier. The health equity metric is also in the Orange tier, it is 4.8%."
She added that having two of the three metrics measure two tiers better than the current phase would essentially provide the county with a bonus to move ahead, even though one metric is not currently qualifying.
"The county remains in the tier with the worst metric, so we are in Purple," said Borenstein. "However, if you are two better than the Purple tier, so in this case, we are Orange, in the two other metrics, a county may proceed to the next least restrictive tier if we retain that status for a minimum of two weeks."
San Luis Obispo County has been meeting the two Orange-qualifying metrics for one week, putting the Red tier within close range.
"If our health equity metric and test positivity overall stay as low as they have been in this Orange, we can conceivably move into the Red tier a week from today," said Borenstein.
Should the county advance into the Red tier, it would allow many business sectors and services to further reopen.
Businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms museums, zoos, and aquariums could reopen indoor operations with limited capacitiy.
Other businesses, such as retail could increase capacity numbers, moving from 25% to 50% capacity, along with other modifications.
"That is good news for our community," said Borenstein. "It is good news for our businesses. It is good news for our schools. I need to remind the public that any of this can change if we open too fast and too aggressively, we stand to get back into a bad situation, so I very much support us moving forward with business opening and very much want to see our schools back in business, and therefore say congratulations to our community, but you please need to continue to do everything that we've been asking consistently so we can stay on this downturn and stay moving forward."
San Luis Obispo County was last in the Red tier in November before the post-Halloween surge forced it into the Purple, where it has remained ever since.