By Gracie Kitayama and Sophie Kroesche

As of Monday, Nov. 16, San Luis Obispo County moved from the red tier to the purple tier in regards to the California blueprint for reopening during the pandemic. 

The purple tier, also known as the “widespread” tier or “Tier 1,” means that the restaurants, movie theaters, museums, places of worship and fitness centers that opened indoor services with modifications two months ago must once again move their services outdoors. Retail spaces and shopping centers can still operate indoors, but now with 25 percent capacity as opposed to the 50 percent that was allowed by the red tier. 

Businesses that do not have an outdoor option to continue functioning will need to close. 

The change is effective for at least three weeks due to a fast rise in cases, according to a San Luis Obispo Public Health Department press release. 

“This is disappointing for everyone,” County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein wrote in the press release. “For weeks, we have seen a fast rise in cases here, across the state, and across the country. Our local hospitalization rates remain low.”

The day of the tier change announcement, the county had its highest 14-day new case rate, averaging around 65 reported cases per day, with 712 active cases in total.

At 2,029 cases, the majority of COVID-19 cases in the county have been in the 18 to 29-years-old age range. Borenstein said this has caused some to believe that the college student population is solely responsibly for the backslide to the bottom tier. 

“Even if we removed cases among Cal Poly students, our case rate would still likely put us back in the Purple Tier,” Borenstein said. “Now is the time for each individual to take extra precautions and follow all health guidelines to slow the spread and help us move forward together.”

In light of the news, Mayor Heidi Harmon said that members of the San Luis Obispo community need to recommit to stopping the spread of the virus. 

 “I know it’s been going on for a long time, people are sick of it, all of those things, and it’s a huge bummer, no doubt about it,” Harmon said. “But people’s lives are in their hands.”

San Luis Obispo County is one of 41 counties in the state of California in the purple tier. The majority of the other 17 counties are in the red (substantial) tier, just above purple, with four in the orange (moderate) tier and two in the yellow (minimal) tier.

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