Gatherings among young people blamed for 'alarming spike' in COVID-19 cases

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Despite SLO County’s recent improvements in both COVID-19 case and positivity rates, health officials warned on Nov. 5 that scores of reported cases in the past few days could result in state mandated restrictions in coming weeks.

SLO County health officials said in a press release that 156 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the three days before Nov. 5, exceeding the weekly case limit that the county must stay under in order for it to remain in the state’s red tier. The three-day spike, according to the press release, had bumped total cases up by 10 percent in the city of San Luis Obispo alone, and many active cases were among college students and other young people.

SPIKE SLO County health officials said that during the first week of November the county exceeded the weekly COVID-19 case limit that the county must stay under in order for it to remain in the state’s red tier. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • SPIKE SLO County health officials said that during the first week of November the county exceeded the weekly COVID-19 case limit that the county must stay under in order for it to remain in the state’s red tier.

“We want to move forward, not backward and we can turn this around before it negatively impacts the entire county,” County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said in the release. “Young adults: You know what you need to do. Wear your face covering, avoid social gatherings with people outside of your social bubble, stay home if you’re sick, and get tested.”



Many active cases are among Cal Poly students who are gathering without proper safety precautions. Of the 74 cases reported in the 24 hours before Nov. 5, 37 cases are in San Luis Obispo and 7 are among Cal Poly campus residents. Roughly 73 percent of the county’s new cases are among residents aged 18-29 years old.

In response to the recent uptick, Cal Poly says it’s increasing testing among off-campus students in the Geek community and those living in the neighborhoods where outbreaks have been identified. In an effort to discourage problematic gatherings, the city of SLO invoked the Safety Enhancement Zone in April, which doubles fines for noise, unruly gatherings, open alcohol containers, public urination, and violations of public health orders.

Santa Barbara County recently approved a similar ordinance that allows the county to levy fines against those at large gatherings and businesses that refuse to comply with health orders. That ordinance, which was approved on Oct. 20, followed on the heels of an emergency notification issued by UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 16, stating that two clusters of positive COVID-19 cases had been identified in Isla Vista Greek houses. ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

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