Paso Robles News|Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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SLO issues emergency order allowing crematories and mortuaries to extend hours 

Sanctuary city–As the U.S. recorded the largest single-day death toll from COVID-19, and deaths in San Luis Obispo exceeded 100, the City of San Luis Obispo responded to requests from local crematory and mortuary businesses struggling to keep pace with demand.

Effective immediately, these businesses may extend hours of operations as needed “to protect the public health, safety, and welfare during such time as the declared pandemic emergency continues.”

The emergency proclamation was issued last night by City Manager Derek Johnson under special authority granted during the COVID-19 pandemic to make and issue rules and regulations on matters reasonably related to the protection of life and property. The city council will be asked to ratify the order at its next scheduled meeting, Jan. 12.

“I can’t think of a clearer sign of the times than this,” said City Manager Derek Johnson. “We need everyone to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever. Each of us has the power to save lives by wearing face coverings, avoiding gatherings, staying at least six feet away from people outside our households, washing our hands often, and staying home as much as possible.”

The city’s emergency proclamation comes following requests in recent days from Wheeler Smith Mortuary and Reis Family Mortuary asking the city to remove restrictions on hours of operation due to increased demand and projections of additional post-holiday deaths.

Under city zoning rules, crematory and mortuary businesses may only operate Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. According to health experts, cases transmitted during the holidays have not yet been fully documented due to the two-to-14-day incubation period. Hospitalizations typically occur two to three weeks following the onset of symptoms, with approximately 1-percent of all cases being fatal. Records show these are the two crematory or mortuary businesses that operate in the city, but their service areas extending countywide.

On Dec. 18, the San Luis Obispo City Council issued a joint statement calling for increased vigilance in following public health orders, fearing holiday gatherings could quickly overwhelm health care resources, expose those most vulnerable and cause further economic impacts. County health officials said earlier this week that the recent spike in cases means it is likely more people have been exposed to COVID-19. Anyone who may have been exposed is urged to avoid contact with others and get tested.

“This virus has claimed more than 100 local lives,” said County Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein. “Those are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, children and grandparents who were not ready to die and whose deaths were, in fact, preventable.”

Borenstein said COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in San Luis Obispo County as well as nationwide.

For more information, visit or call the recorded Public Health Information Line at (805) 788-2903. A staffed phone assistance center at (805) 543-2444 is available Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with questions related to COVID-19.

For more information about the city’s response to COVID-19, please visit

To receive updates from the city regarding COVID-19, please register for city news e-notifications on the city’s website at or follow the City of San Luis Obispo on social media.


About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at