SLO County’s Coronavirus Reopening Rollout is a Mess

Aaron Ochs
8 min readMay 14, 2020
San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo County wants to reopen the economy quickly. It’s clear our county government, residents and small business owners want to reopen to the “new normal” as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t do so prematurely. We should also hold those accountable for taking that premature route.

On April 20, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom that was co-signed by several local leaders with bipartisan consensus. The letter urged the governor to allow our county to implement a phased reopening strategy over the course of three weeks based on unspecified “science and expert” guidance. Cunningham insisted the discussion to reopen the county was based on a declining infection rate and fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations. At the time the letter the sent to Newsom, we had 130 positive cases, 111 fully recovered, 3 in the hospital and one death. Nearly a month later, as of May 13, we have 232 positive cases, 183 fully recovered, 4 hospitalized with 2 in the ICU. While our hospitalization rates have remained relatively low, we’ve nearly doubled our confirmed cases.

So when Cunningham said our county was “successful in [their] efforts to manage the virus’s spread,” it didn’t completely turn out that way.

In his letter, Cunningham mentioned the County would fully develop and “be ready to implement” SLO County Roadmap for Reopening, which he said would be fully compliant with state and federal guidelines. According to Gov. Newsom’s office, neither Cunningham nor the County provided any additional insight into any specifics about the plan in addition to the letter. Basically, Cunningham wrote, “Trust us. We have something you’ll like.” Based on that trust and the promise to unveil a plan, Cunningham insisted on the state giving them the pathway to reopen. This was essentially putting the cart before the horse.

Sure enough, SLO County’s roadmap did appear. They called it the START Guide, which was released days before Gov. Newsom announced more details about the state’s protocols for reopening. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with SLO County ambitiously drawing up a plan, but they did so without consulting Gov. Newsom’s office. Evidence of this appeared in the form of a Tribune article, which cited key differences between the County’s

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Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.