San Luis Obispo County received more good COVID-19 news on Feb. 23. Local case numbers
continue to decline and, if they hold for another week, could nudge the county into the state’s less restrictive red tier.
But there’s one declining metric that the SLO County Public Health Department says it’d like to see go back up again: testing. This week, SLO County recorded its lowest COVID-19 test rate since early January, a 33 percent drop in testing from a month ago.
FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
ENCOURAGING TESTING SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein is asking residents to get tested for COVID-19 to help accelerate the county’s reopening.
In a Feb. 23 press release titled, “Want SLO County to move to red tier? Get tested for COVID-19,” public health officials played to locals’ reopening desires by pointing out that high levels of testing will help drive down the county’s adjusted case rate—a key metric used to determine restrictions for counties.
This week, SLO County reported an adjusted case rate of 9.4, which aligns it with the state’s most restrictive purple tier. SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said that more COVID-19 testing “has the added benefit of allowing us to progress towards safely reopening our local businesses and schools.”
“The more people get tested, the faster the state will ease pandemic-related restrictions locally,” her office’s release said.
Health officials said public testing clinics
in Paso Robles, Morro Bay, SLO, Grover Beach, and Nipomo are now accepting walk-ups appointments and that “the test itself is much more comfortable.”
“Health care workers at the sites now swab the ‘anterior nares,’ or the base of the nostril, instead of the upper cavity that was customary early in the pandemic,” it stated.
If SLO County’s current metrics hold another week, it could still move into the red tier on March 3. Its overall positivity rate and health equity positivity rate are low enough to meet the orange tier (the tier even less restrictive than red)—and that alone is a qualifier to move ahead.
Counties in the red tier may reopen indoor operations at places like restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms. Only five counties progressed from purple to red tier on Feb. 23.
On Feb. 23, SLO County reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, with 21 residents currently hospitalized and eight in ICUs. ∆