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The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department announced Monday, Jan. 11 that intensive care unit (ICU) availability for local hospitals increased to 66%. On Jan. 12, the ICU availability decreased to 61%. 

The Jan. 11 announcement comes after local hospitals and public health officials adjusted the metrics to account for both licensed and staffed ICU beds. 

Prior to ICU bed adjustments, the number of available beds included ones that were licensed but not guaranteed to be staffed.  

“The hospital ICU information we’re providing is based on data provided by local hospitals to the County Public Health Department,” San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said.

Borenstein said the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department plans to update local ICU bed capacity daily. 

“We are always trying to improve the information we provide to the public in order to help them understand the local situation and that this is part of that effort,” Borenstein said.  

However, Borenstein added that while the ICU capacity has increased overall, the COVID-19 virus is still very prevalent throughout the county. 

“While at this time the ICU capacity in SLO County is better than in the Southern California Region, our local COVID-19 situation is getting worse and the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 is higher than it has ever been,” Borenstein said.

Borenstein also said community members should take safety precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Avoid social gatherings, wear your face coverings out in public, stay home if you’re sick, and stay home for at least 10 days if you have been exposed to COVID-19,” Borenstein said.

Dignity Health Central Coast Chief Medical Officer Scott Robertson said that staffing levels have also been affected by the increased demand for ICU beds in recent weeks.

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, Dignity Health Central Coast cross-trained staff, hired travel nurses and hired 20 Cuesta College graduates to support the nursing staff.

Robertson said that Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals, including locations in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, are experiencing a COVID-19 surge greater than when the pandemic began.

According to Robertson, Dignity Health has enacted surge plans to utilize additional bed space that was prepared for increases in ICU patient volume. 

Robertson also said that the increase in ICU patients has affected the hospital staff. 

“Our staff have been working tirelessly since the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Robertson said. “With the demand this has put on them physically, mentally and emotionally, they are growing increasingly fatigued as they continue to care for the community.” 

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Robertson said he encourages the San Luis Obispo County community members to enact COVID-19 safety measures.

“We encourage the community to do their part to slow the spread by spending time only with those in your immediate household, masking, social distancing and hand-washing.” 

San Luis Obispo County residents can retrieve updated information on local ICU bed capacity as well as other county-wide COVID-19 statistics on

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