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COVID-19: San Luis Obispo County Public Health reinstates local mask mandate 

Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein speaks at a live press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Mandate to go into effect Wednesday

–The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department on Tuesday announced a mask mandate and updated the community on the current COVID-19 data available from local hospitals at a press conference. Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein said the reinstated mask mandate is for everyone regardless of vaccination status and will go into effect at midnight. Exceptions will be made for children under 2 years old and those with mental health or medical conditions.

“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,” she said.

“We cannot let that happen. 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,” said Dr. Borenstein, who was accompanied by other medical professionals, including Tenet Health Central Coast CEO Mark Lisa and Dignity Health French Hospital Medical Center President & CEO Alan Iftiniuk.

SLO County is now seeing its highest number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals, with 67 hospitalizations currently.

In August, there were 3,543 cases and 18 deaths. In June, there were 163 cases and zero deaths. From January through August, in the county, those who are not vaccinated comprise 98.5% of cases, 97.5% of hospitalizations, and 99.2% of deaths, according to data released by 60.3 percent of SLO County residents are vaccinated, with over 90,000 people vaccinated by the SLO County Public Health Department. 

“Despite what you may or may not have heard, our hospitals are treating many patients with a severe and contagious disease,” said Mark Lisa. “This is real. This virus doesn’t care how you vote…it only cares who can host it so it can grow and change.”

Dr. Tom Vendegna, Chief Medical Officer at French Hospital added “In all my years I have never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic… our COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated and younger – 20s, 30s and 40s.”

As 98% of cases statewide are the Delta variant, the SLO County Public Health Department and medical professionals at the press conference again urged the community to vaccinate, wear masks, and practice social distancing. The mask mandate will be revisited often and will be removed when the rate of community transmission declines. Updates and more information is available at

Key COVID-19 stats for SLO County

  • 3,543 cases in August alone
  • 67 in hospital – 20 people in ICU
  • 11 deaths certified in the last 2 weeks with 8 more pending certification
  • The highest rate of hospitalization since the pandemic began
  • 90 outbreaks around the county right now
  • Delta accounts for 98% of cases statewide, same in SLO County
  • 77% of new cases are unvaccinated, since June 15
  • 86% of hospitalized are unvaccinated, since June 15
  • 79% of deaths were unvaccinated, since June 15


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