September 25, 2023
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SLO County joins Santa Barbara and Ventura with new mask mandate


Masked employees at Lucky Penny restaurant in Santa Barbara earlier this year. (file photo)

Public health officials in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties now require everyone to wear face coverings in all indoor public settings to protect against COVID-19, after San Luis Obispo County reinstated its mask mandate on Aug. 31.

Citing rising case rates in San Luis Obispo County, Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein issued a new order that applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents and goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 2.

“This surge is stretching our local health care system too close to the breaking point and if it continues, we risk losing our ability to care for people with common conditions like heart attacks, broken bones or even cancer,” Borenstein said in a statement on Aug. 31. ”By returning to indoor masking now, for a period of time, we can help protect our hospital capacity, protect our vulnerable neighbors, and help keep our economy open.”

The decision for the mask order comes as “hospitals face extreme demands on their capacity,” the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department said.

On Aug. 20, the Ventura County Public Health Department issued an order requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings.

Santa Barbara County mandated universal masking in indoor public spaces in early August.

The mandates cover retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters, gyms, family entertainment centers, conference and event centers, government offices and other public spaces. There are some exceptions when people when remain unmasked, including when eating or drinking.

San Luis Obispo County has by far the region’s highest rate of new COVID cases. The county reported an average of 43.4 new cases over the last seven days, according to COVID-19 data from the state of California published on Aug. 31.

Ventura County reported an average of 22.7 new cases per 100,000 residents, and Santa Barbara County reported an average of 23.6 cases per 100,000 residents.

The California Department of Public Health has urged everyone to wear face coverings in indoor public places.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public “if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” Unvaccinated people age 2 and older should wear a mask in indoor public places, according to the CDC.