SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting that was open to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than 15 months ago.
At the start of the meeting at 9 a.m., Board Chair Lynn Compton welcomed back the large number of audience members that were in attendance.
"It's very nice to see live faces and look out there and interact with people one-on-one," said Compton, who represents the Fourth District. "It's hard to do (online meetings). There's a lot of technical problems when you do the Zoom meetings, so it's really nice to have people come in and talk to us face-to-face. It's just a lot better. I almost forgot about all the procedures since it's been so long."
Under new state guidance, face coverings were optional for vaccinated individuals, while masks were required for those who are unvaccinated.
"It's wonderful to see people's faces, to see people engaged in our process of county governance and it's a sign that things are really moving forward in a great direction," said Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein, who provided a county update on the pandemic.
"Things have been stable now for well over a month," said Borenstein. "We do continue to see cases. We'd like to see that go close to zero, if not zero, and we'll continue to offer all of our services, vaccinations, testing, support consultation."
Over the course of the pandemic, the Board of Supervisors have held meetings in a virtual format, which has created frustration and difficulties.
"I think that what really happens is we lose a lot of the meaning," said Third District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg. "This is really complicated stuff. There's many, many pieces to every issue, and so when we're able to sit together, I think we're able to explain things to the audience, our constituents, as well as to each other."
The online meetings allowed public speakers to comment through phone calls and other speakers to appear through video platforms. Moving forward, remote participation will no longer be allowed.
Many point out remote participation has allowed more people to take part in county government. With that in mind, there is consideration it could return in some capacity.
"I think it's important for people to be able to weigh in with their opinions, and that's one thing that Covid has demonstrated, that we can be connected through the internet and all of that," said Ortiz-Legg. "Perhaps that's something we need to be looking at. I think it's something that's probably going to come up."
As it has in the past prior to the pandemic, the meeting was broadcast live through an online livestream.
The next Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for July 13, 2021 at 9 a.m.