San Luis Obispo County has declared COVID-19 a public health emergency and a local emergency at a news conference Friday morning, despite no confirmed cases of coronavirus in San Luis Obispo County.

This comes before President Trump’s news conference Friday afternoon, where he addressed the nation for the second time this week, now declaring a national emergency.

“It’s only a matter of time before our county sees a case as well, and we are prepared for that eventually,” County Health Officer Penny Borenstein said.

As of March 13, there have been 37 tests administered in the county — none of them testing positive for coronavirus. Borenstein said the county has a capacity for 50 tests daily.

According to Bornstein, COVID-19 tests in San Luis Obispo County can indicate results in a matter of three to four hours. She also added that in the state of California, there is no charge to get tested.

She also noted the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to test for the virus with only one specimen needed instead of three.

San Luis Obispo is one of 22 laboratories in the state of California that is currently testing for the virus.

Because the county has not been meeting their allotted capacity, the county opened the opportunity for outpatient provider communities to send patients that they believe have the virus to be tested as of March 12.

The county anticipates they will reach testing capacity very quickly. When that happens, Bornstein said the county will most likely need to revert to only taking in the sickest of patients for testing — much like what most of the country is currently doing.

“We are taking the stringent precautions as almost every other community around the nation,” Borenstein said.

The emergency declaration will allow Borenstein to issue specific public health orders.

In terms of closing Cal Poly or making classes online-only, Borenstein said the county does not have an absolute threshold for the conditions required to make that decision.

“I know there is pressure being brought to bear on our institutions and we will make those decisions in partnership as they come,” Borenstein said.

So far, Cal Poly has delayed the start of Spring quarter to April 6. The university will announce any additional measures for when students return from spring break by March 25.

The county is following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lead on “social distancing” — a measure Borenstein said is most effective when there are no cases.

When addressing if certain events should be canceled, Borenstein said for the most part, the answer today is yes.

Canceling schools in the district is an exception to that, as Borenstein described this to be a “huge societal disruption.” The county is not providing the recommendation to cancel schools at this time.

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