SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Unlike nearby Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, San Luis Obispo County is not currently mandating the universal use of face coverings in indoor settings.
Despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, San Luis Obispo County does not require universal indoor masking for everyone.
While people that are unvaccinated are required to wear face coverings indoors, those individuals that have been vaccinated still have the option.
"We're monitoring the situation," said San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton. "We're paying particular attention to our hospital capacity and how many folks that we have in hospital beds and ICU. We'll monitor that and make a decision. We'll make a decision if we have to depending on what that status is."
COVID-19 data released by the county late Tuesday afternoon is showing just how significant the recent surge caused by the Delta variant is having on the community.
Since Friday, the county is reporting five deaths, as well as 460 new cases.
In addition, there are currently 55 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19, including 16 in the ICU. It's largest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in San Luis Obispo County since late January 2021.
If COVID-19 metrics continue to spike negatively, Horton said an indoor masking requirement may be ordered.
"Our goal is to maintain our capacity to be able to take care of folks who are sick, and if looks like that's going to be a situation where our hospital capacity becomes a concern, then we'll have to evaluate our options," said Horton. "We're hoping we see a plateau in our active case counts and our hospitalizations, but if that's not the case, we'll have to make a decision."
Last Wednesday, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department announced it is strongly recommending that people, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public places.
"The Delta variant is sweeping quickly through our community and we need every tool we have to stop it," Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer, said in a statement. "While vaccines remain our best tool against COVID-19, masking in indoor and crowded outdoor settings will help us curb the spread of this latest wave of infection."
The current masking policy is a significant different than those currently in place in neighboring Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Two weeks ago, Santa Barbara County reinstated its indoor masking mandate.
Beginning on Friday, Aug. 6, Santa Barbara County mandated everyone two years of age and older is required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings and shared work places regardless of their vaccination status.
Similar to Santa Barbara County, the Ventura County health order requires anyone over the age of two to wear a face covering at all times in all indoor public settings and businesses, with limited exceptions.
“As of today, we reached a rate of 28 cases per 100,000, a 40% increase. I hope that this order will increase mask usage in Ventura County. I expect that this will have a beneficial effect on the increase in COVID-19 infections we are seeing,” said Ventura County Public Health Officer Doctor Robert Levin.
Much like the rest of California and the nation, San Luis Obispo County is seeing a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases.
The number of active cases has skyrocketed from 100 active cases on July 16 to 1,538 on Aug. 23.
San Luis Obispo County’s case rate is currently 40.0, the highest it has been since January 2021. The case rate was only 1.4 just eight weeks ago on June 27.
There has been 2,436 new cases reported during the first 23 days of August, compared to just 163 cases in the entire month of June.
For the latest information about COVID-19 in San Luis Obispo County, click here.