San Luis Obispo County released a draft of the Steps to Adapt and Reopen Together (START) Guide, which includes the phased reopening of the county. However, the guidelines stopped short of when Cal Poly could reopen and what students returning to campus would look like.
Reopening is broken down into three phases and will not be implemented until Gov. Gavin Newsom lifts the statewide stay home order.
On Tuesday, county leaders sent a letter to Newsom with their plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions. They urged collaboration and encouraged Newsom to consider more local control .
When the state stay home order is lifted, Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said San Luis Obispo is ready to immediately enter phase one.
“I can tell you with confidence, we are ready to open SLO County safely once the governor lifts his order,” Emergency Operations Director Wade Horton said.
The guide is still a draft and there are still unanswered questions, Horton said.
After California lifts or modifies the stay home order, many businesses and institutions may reopen partially or with modified conditions. They must follow best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including proper physical distancing, use of protective equipment and comprehensive sanitation procedures.
Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed in this phase, with physical distancing maintained as much as possible. For example, a group of five friends could go out to dinner and be closer than six feet, but must be further than six feet from the table closest to them.
The plan specifically designates that colleges will continue to stay closed during this phase. However, the plan allows for modified reopenings for K-12 schools. Borenstein said there is no chance San Luis Obispo schools will reopen this academic year.
Gyms, beaches and parks are allowed to have modified reopenings.
All non-essential travel should be minimized, according to the plan.
At this time, masks will continue to only be recommended in public when physical distancing is difficult.
Symptomatic people should not be allowed to return to work.
Under phase one, all vulnerable populations should continue to stay at home.
If California were to lift the shelter-at-home order, but the county experiences a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, phase one would not begin. In addition, there are requirements for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and enough testing in the county.
The second phase of the START Plan will begin at least 30 days after phase one is enacted.
In this phase, gatherings of up to 50 people become permitted.
Most businesses can stay open with modified operating standards in place for physical distancing and sanitation.
Employees should continue to have their staff telework if possible.
Vulnerable populations should continue to stay home under phase two as well.
The third phase will begin at least 30 days after the start of phase two. Horton called this phase the “new normal” during the media briefing.
In this phase, there are no restrictions on gatherings, but people should limit time spent in crowded areas. The plan leaves room to place a restriction on the amount of people allowed to gather during this phase.
Most businesses and institutions can resume unrestricted operations and fully open.
Organizations still cannot allow symptomatic people to return to work.
Physical distancing will be eased for the population, but vulnerable populations should continue physical distancing in public.
Visiting in senior centers and hospitals is allowed with strict physical distancing.
The third phase calls for modified reopenings of “post-secondary institutions.” However, Borenstein said that what reopening looks like is yet to be determined.
“That’s a very large gathering,” Borenstein said. “We’re not sure that if everything still looks good after 14 days, after 30 days, after another 30 days, that we’re going to feel that the metrics of this disease warrant going back to business as usual.”
The county is in close communication with Cal Poly to determine the best course of action for fall quarter.
“University leadership is optimistic that we will be able to offer in-person, face-to-face learning on campus again in the fall,” University Spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News. “However, a decision on that has not yet been made and ultimately will be determined by the circumstances of the quickly evolving coronavirus pandemic.”
The community is encouraged to provide feedback on the plan.