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Third case of COVID-19 reported in SLO County; bar, restaurant alcohol sales suspended through Wednesday

Third case of COVID-19 reported in SLO County; bar, restaurant alcohol sales suspended through Wednesday

A third case of COVID-19 was reported Monday in San Luis Obispo County as county officials issued an executive order halting alcohol sales at bars and restaurants until Wednesday afternoon. 

The infected individual lives in the same household as the second resident confirmed to have the coronavirus — a south San Luis Obispo County resident under 60 years old with significant underlying health conditions, according to Public Health Department spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman.

The third confirmed patient is recovering at home and fully cooperating with the county health officials' investigation, Shoresman said.

San Luis Obispo County emergency officials issued an executive order Monday banning alcohol sales at all bars and restaurants ahead of St. Patrick's Day celebrations to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, which was declared to be a pandemic on March 11. 

The ban now is in effect until 12:01 p.m. Wednesday and follows a Sunday announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom taking statewide measures to stop the spread of the virus. 

The measures include ordering restaurants to reduce to 50% capacity to encourage the practice of social distancing. 

Other measures include calling for residents 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions to self-isolate for 14 days, and invoking emergency powers to find housing for the homeless. 

The alcohol ban is a "major approach" to slow the spread of the coronavirus and protect those most vulnerable, said Wade Horton, county administrative officer. 

"This decision was not taken lightly," Horton said. "We recognize the economic impact that this will have." 

Horton said county officials have contacted local business owners and are exploring options to provide financial relief, including reducing or delaying taxes and fees. 

County officials are working with nonprofits to provide services, including meals on wheels, for self-isolated individuals, Horton said. 

"We need to recognize that this disease is spreading pretty much everywhere," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County public health director, adding more coronavirus cases will undoubtedly be detected. 

She declined to specify where the current cases are located in the county, citing patient privacy and the need to quell panic. 

Each individual who tests positive for the coronavirus is asked a battery of questions regarding their contact history, such as where they've been and who they've had close contact with, Borenstein said. 

County health officials have reached out to individuals who have had face-to-face contact with the patients, asking them to self-quarantine for 14 days, which is the time frame in which symptoms begin to show.

The most common symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. 

Borenstein acknowledged the fear regarding secondary and tertiary contact with coronavirus patients, but added that the vast majority of cases are transmitted from someone who is actively sick. 

County public health officials have thus far been able to meet testing capacity at 50 people per day, although Borenstein is hopeful that private lab capacity will improve. 

Only patients who have been hospitalized and referred by a physician are tested, Borenstein said. 

Once capacity is exceeded, Borenstein said, hospital-based patients who show symptoms will be prioritized. 

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Public Safety Reporter

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