Credit: Connor Frost | Mustang News

Musa Faraha is an anthropology and geology freshman. Tessa Hughes is a journalism sophomore. They are both Mustang News columnists. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

The county of San Luis Obispo is lifting its shelter-in-place order as of today, May 17, and will only require residents to follow the state’s orders on re-opening procedures.

Prior to this, the county was hoping to implement their own reopening plan. However, California Gov. Gavin Newsom denied the proposed plan, called the Steps to Adapt & Reopen Together (START) guide.

The County’s START guide was tricky because it would have applied to the entire county, not just the city of San Luis Obispo, and throughout the county, each town’s make-up is different. Cities like Paso Robles and Atascadero are typically highly populated and are petri dishes for something like COVID-19, while cities such as Cayucos and Templeton are much smaller, thus lower risk. For this reason, it is fair for the entire county to follow state guidelines, since San Luis Obispo County’s proposed plan would have put bigger cities in more imminent danger. 

The economy is taking a hit throughout the entire pandemic, and the need is pressing to have more businesses reopen. However, it is more important for the county to become healthy, so Cal Poly, among other schools and businesses, can reopen faster. 

Without the college and the student life it generates, the economy in San Luis Obispo will continue to suffer ⁠— open or not. 

Cal Poly teaches almost 21,000 students. That is 21,000 individuals that might’ve moved home or out of the area since the pandemic hit. While there are many people who have chosen to stay in the area, enough have left to leave an impact. Those who have stayed in San Luis Obispo cannot contribute to the economy more than the occasional take-out or grocery-run, which continues to harm dine-in restaurants and non-essential businesses.

Currently, Cal Poly will not be open for the summer quarter and is reformatting new student orientation programs like SLO Days and Week of Welcome. Both of these orientation programs generate revenue for the city from the visiting students and family. As of now, it is unclear whether or not Cal Poly will even reopen for fall quarter. The longer students stay in their hometowns, away from San Luis Obispo, the longer businesses will suffer. 

 San Luis Obispo is not a town like San Diego or San Francisco that can open the economy and start to rebuild. Students make the economy thrive in San Luis Obispo.

It is not just the city that benefits either — all the surrounding cities do too. Every weekend students visit Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, and Morro Bay to eat at the restaurants and shop in the stores. Without this large population of consumers in the county, these cities are taking a hit as well.

San Luis Obispo was optimistic in thinking their proposed plan was going to pass. What makes them special? 

Every other county statewide is facing the same dilemma, and while it is commendable that the county took the initiative to create the plan, San Luis Obispo is a part of a bigger whole: the state of California. They need to follow state guidelines because it can be argued that they have more on the line. Not only do they really need to consider the lives and safety of their residents, but ignoring the state guidelines will prolong the time before students return, further harming the economy.

Reopening the state of California, let alone the county of San Luis Obispo, will take an FDA-approved vaccine for coronavirus. Yet, the creation of a vaccine and reaching approval from the FDA is a long process of trial and error. Reopening a college town like San Luis Obispo could be extremely detrimental to the progress of our county in terms of beating the virus.

Some experts have suggested more testing for coronavirus and strict contact tracing so that cities throughout the U.S. can gradually begin to reopen. Even with this suggestion, reopening San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly would surely cause more harm than benefit because the disease could quickly ravage the student body and rapidly spread through the county⁠ — thus restarting the stay-at-home order, raising the death toll, and stunting the economy. 

Other countries, like Singapore and Taiwan, that have reopened after seeing dramatic decreases in reported coronavirus cases are now seeing a second-wave of coronavirus. There are also countries that used strict contact tracing, like Iceland, that have seen a drop in new coronavirus cases, but their economy has taken a huge hit. 

Contact tracing ⁠— the process of finding those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus or has been exposed to it ⁠— can be effective in reopening San Luis Obispo, but it is time-consuming. By the time those who have been exposed to coronavirus are found, they could have exposed more people and those people could have infected others. Our fastest option for ending this quarantine is following California’s stay at home order. 

This pandemic isn’t enjoyable for anyone and everyone wants their lives to return back to normal with as little hardships as possible. In order to do this, San Luis needs to focus not on their own plan for reopening, but the guidelines implemented by the state. This way, their efforts can be more accurately directed at figuring out the most efficient and safest way to get the students back.

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