Friday, February 26, 2021

Hundreds of SLO County educators to get vaccines starting March 1

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 2:02 PM

Several hundred San Luis Obispo County educators are in line to get vaccinated during the first week of March as part of a statewide effort to get schools and child care centers reopened.

FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM


On Feb. 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that starting March 1, 10 percent of the state’s weekly doses of COVID-19 vaccine would go toward school and child care employees returning to in-person classes. SLO County Health Officer Penny Borenstein said at a press briefing on Feb. 24 that the county plans to honor that mandate, reserving 10 percent of the county’s vaccine doses for high-priority employees in those sectors.

“This is important, especially as schools are looking at the prospect of opening more widely,” Borenstein said. “We are going to try to keep step with meeting that need for those, on a prioritized basis, who are in person and as they move back into higher risk settings, more students coming on board. These staff and child care providers will work with their employers to try to develop a prioritized scheme and to try to get as many people through the system as quickly as they can.”

Jim Brescia, superintendent of the SLO County Office of Education, said there are roughly 600 vaccination appointments available to local education and child care employees from March 1 through 5. Allocations to individual school districts depend on how many employees are working in higher risk situations, he said, like those with students who struggle to follow COVID-19 safety protocols or employees with documented medical issues working in-person.

“We’re just trying to prioritize those who are most vulnerable and most at risk first,” Brescia told New Times.

Eighty-nine San Luis Coastal Unified School District employees are slated to get vaccines the first week of March, according to Director of Human Resources Christin Newlon. San Luis Coastal is prioritizing employees who are already working on campus, those with documented medical issues who plan to return for in-person classes, staff in special education classrooms who are required to have close physical contact with students, and staff in preschool and transitional kindergarten classes, where younger children often don’t wear masks.

Some special educators in intensive settings have already been vaccinated, Newlon said.

Lucia Mar Unified School District, which received 112 vaccine allotments, is working on a similarly tiered vaccine rollout among its employees, according to spokesperson Amy Jacobs, starting first with employees who are already working with students in classrooms. ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Older adults, Latino residents are disproportionately dying from COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 3:05 PM

While young and middle-aged adults make up the most COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County, deaths are highest among elderly residents, according to recently released data. Latinos and Hispanics contract, are hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.

RACIAL DISPARITIES Latino and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate percentage of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to county data. - SCREENSHOT OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY COMMUNITY DATA DASHBOARD
  • SCREENSHOT OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY COMMUNITY DATA DASHBOARD
  • RACIAL DISPARITIES Latino and Hispanic residents make up a disproportionate percentage of Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, according to county data.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s epidemiology team recently released the COVID-19 demographics report, which analyzes COVID-19 data up to Dec. 31, 2020. The data reveals which age groups and races are most affected by the virus in Santa Barbara County, and compares these numbers against the county’s population.

People aged 18 to 29 represent an inordinate percentage of COVID-19 cases in the county, as this group makes up 21 percent of the county’s population, but 30 percent of its cases. Adverse outcomes for 18 to 29-year-olds who contract the virus are low, making up 16 percent of hospitalizations and less than 1 percent of deaths.

While those aged 70 and older only make up 11 percent of the county’s population and 7 percent of its cases, they account for 26 percent of hospitalizations and 67 percent of deaths.

Children (those under 18) accounted for only 9 percent of COVID-19 cases, despite being 23 percent of the county’s population, but Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said that most schools were closed for in-person classes during the reporting period.

“As Santa Barbara County schools start to reopen, it’s possible that more cases will be attributed to children in the next quarter,” she said during a Feb. 19 press conference.

With Santa Barbara County’s adjusted case rate at 16.9 per 100,000 cases as of Feb. 23, kindergarten through sixth grade-serving school districts that have submitted their safety plans may reopen under state guidelines.

The county’s demographic report also reveals racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 cases and recovery. While Hispanic and Latino people account for 48 percent of Santa Barbara County’s population, this group made up 57 percent of cases in the county, 67 percent of hospitalizations, and 50 percent of deaths. White people make up 43 percent of the county population, but just 15 percent of cases, 23 percent of hospitalized cases, and 39 percent of deaths.

“Many of these deaths occurred at skilled nursing homes and other congregate care settings, which have been highly impacted by the pandemic,” Do-Reynoso said.

About 22 percent of COVID-19 cases in the data set were missing the person’s race. However, no racial data was missing from reported deaths, where Hispanic and Latino residents were also disproportionately affected.

COVID-19 metrics in Santa Barbara County continue to improve each week, but the health equity metric—a state data point that tracks positive cases in disadvantaged communities—remains elevated in comparison to the overall positivity rate.

“While the SARS-Cov-2 is novel, the disparate impact of [the] COVID-19 pandemic on Santa Barbara County’s communities of color is deeply rooted in the historic and ongoing social and economic inequalities that lead to persistent racial disparities in health status,” Do-Reynoso said at the press conference. Δ

—Malea Martin

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

As COVID-19 numbers tick down in SLO County, officials encourage more testing for reopening

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 4:04 PM

San Luis Obispo County received more good COVID-19 news on Feb. 23. Local case numbers continue to decline and, if they hold for another week, could nudge the county into the state’s less restrictive red tier.

But there’s one declining metric that the SLO County Public Health Department says it’d like to see go back up again: testing. This week, SLO County recorded its lowest COVID-19 test rate since early January, a 33 percent drop in testing from a month ago.

ENCOURAGING TESTING SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein is asking residents to get tested for COVID-19 to help accelerate the county’s reopening. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • ENCOURAGING TESTING SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein is asking residents to get tested for COVID-19 to help accelerate the county’s reopening.
In a Feb. 23 press release titled, “Want SLO County to move to red tier? Get tested for COVID-19,” public health officials played to locals’ reopening desires by pointing out that high levels of testing will help drive down the county’s adjusted case rate—a key metric used to determine restrictions for counties.

This week, SLO County reported an adjusted case rate of 9.4, which aligns it with the state’s most restrictive purple tier. SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein said that more COVID-19 testing “has the added benefit of allowing us to progress towards safely reopening our local businesses and schools.”

“The more people get tested, the faster the state will ease pandemic-related restrictions locally,” her office’s release said.

Health officials said public testing clinics in Paso Robles, Morro Bay, SLO, Grover Beach, and Nipomo are now accepting walk-ups appointments and that “the test itself is much more comfortable.”

“Health care workers at the sites now swab the ‘anterior nares,’ or the base of the nostril, instead of the upper cavity that was customary early in the pandemic,” it stated.

If SLO County’s current metrics hold another week, it could still move into the red tier on March 3. Its overall positivity rate and health equity positivity rate are low enough to meet the orange tier (the tier even less restrictive than red)—and that alone is a qualifier to move ahead.

Counties in the red tier may reopen indoor operations at places like restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms. Only five counties progressed from purple to red tier on Feb. 23.

On Feb. 23, SLO County reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, with 21 residents currently hospitalized and eight in ICUs. ∆

—Peter Johnson

Friday, February 19, 2021

Coastal Commission staff recommend elimination of Oceano Dunes off-roading by 2026

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2021 at 3:32 PM

Off-roading could be eliminated entirely in the Oceano Dunes by Jan. 1, 2026, if the California Coastal Commission votes to approve staff recommendations outlined in a report released on Feb. 18.

In the report, which will be discussed further at a hearing on March 18, Coastal Commission staff detail their proposals for the future of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), including recommendations to strengthen sensitive habitat conservation efforts while eliminating off-roading and most street-legal vehicle access in the park by 2026.

READY TO RIDE Trucks line up outside the entry to the Oceano Dunes SVRA on Oct. 30, 2020, the first day in seven months that vehicles were allowed in the park. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • READY TO RIDE Trucks line up outside the entry to the Oceano Dunes SVRA on Oct. 30, 2020, the first day in seven months that vehicles were allowed in the park.
“The California Coastal Commission retains the ability to make changes to park operations through periodic review of its [coastal development permit] that temporarily authorized uses and intensities of use at the park in the 1980s,” the staff report reads, “and found most recently in 2019 that driving at the park has degraded dune habitats, harmed native species, caused air quality, and public health issues, and made it difficult for the public to walk, swim, and enjoy other non-vehicular activities at the beach and dunes.”

If passed, off-roading and most street-legal vehicle access in the SVRA would be phased out over the course of five years, a process that staff say could start as early as March 19 of this year. Only State Parks and emergency vehicles would be allowed on the beach as of 2026, except between West Grand and Pier avenues, where drive-up beach camping would continue indefinitely. After 2026, up to 500 street-legal vehicles will be allowed in the park each day in addition to those using the park’s 500 campsites. Any car staying overnight counts as one campsite. Currently there are 500 campsites in the park and 1,000 additional vehicles allowed in each day.

Nighttime vehicular activity would be prohibited, as would crossing the flowing Arroyo Grande Creek.

Coastal Commission staff also recommend closing the Pier Avenue vehicular entrance to the beach by July 1 of this year, restoring the area to a natural shoreline edge with biking, pedestrian, and equestrian access and the “typical beach area public access amenities.” A 300-acre breeding area for snowy plovers that is currently off limits to vehicles and visitors seasonally would be closed off permanently and other protective measures would be implemented.

“Although some park users will interpret the staff recommendation to mean that the park is being ‘closed,’” the staff report reads, “the park would very much be open as the recommendation is to eliminate [off-highway vehicle] use but also to allow other types of lower impact uses at the park, and ultimately to allow an opportunity for a new and reimagined park that is open to a variety of less intensive uses.”

The recommendations from Coastal Commission staff are in stark contrast to a draft public works plan released by State Parks in December 2020, which largely outlines State Parks’ intent to further develop portions of the Oceano Dunes SVRA and increase off-roading and camping activities in some areas. ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Weather-related shipping delays lead to vaccine appointment cancellations

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2021 at 9:31 AM

Santa Barbara County’s COVID-19 vaccination effort is feeling the effects of severe weather events around the country this week, as a shipping delay forced the county to cancel about 800 appointments scheduled for Feb. 17, 671 appointments on Feb. 18, and 522 on Feb. 19.

“The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has been notified by California Department of Public Health (CDPH) that its allotment of Moderna vaccine will be arriving later than anticipated this week due to severe weather conditions across the country,” a county statement said.

SHIPPING DELAY With severe weather events happening across the country, Santa Barbara County had to cancel some COVID-19 vaccine appointments due to shipping delays. The county’s Allan Hancock vaccine clinic, pictured here, had around 800 cancellations. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLAN HANCOCK COLLEGE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLAN HANCOCK COLLEGE
  • SHIPPING DELAY With severe weather events happening across the country, Santa Barbara County had to cancel some COVID-19 vaccine appointments due to shipping delays. The county’s Allan Hancock vaccine clinic, pictured here, had around 800 cancellations.
According to the statement, the 800 canceled appointments on Feb. 17 were scheduled at the county’s Santa Maria vaccination clinic, located at Allan Hancock College. The county is giving everyone who had a cancellation the chance to reschedule for next week.

“A small allotment of vaccine will still be used to vaccinate just over 400 community members at tomorrow’s clinic in Santa Maria,” the Feb. 16 announcement added. “Second dose appointments have been prioritized for those whose appointments were retained.”

The Feb. 18 canceled appointments were scheduled for the county’s vaccination site located at Dick DeWees in Lompoc, and the Feb. 19 appointments were for the Wake Campus site in Santa Barbara. These slots will automatically be rescheduled for the same time and day next week, according to a county statement.

San Luis Obispo County was not affected by the weather-related delays, according to county spokesperson Michelle Shoresman. She didn’t know why Santa Barbara County’s shipment was affected while SLO County’s wasn’t, however she said “we only schedule appointments for vaccinations that we have on-hand.”


Allan Hancock Public Information Specialist Chris McGuinness told the Sun that despite the cancellations, the college’s vaccination site is open for those who still have appointments.

“Whatever number of people do have appointments for today, essentially whatever county health has decided, we are currently taking those folks,” he said.

Whether there will be any ripple effects from the cancellations to future weeks has yet to be seen, McGuinness said.

“Every week we have sort of an after-action meeting with folks from the county, just to go over the plan for the upcoming week,” he said. “So I’m sure that’ll come up in those meetings.”

McGuinness said Hancock wants to get its students back on campus as soon as it is safe and is happy to help with the countywide vaccination effort in any way it can.

“Since we started the clinic, working with the county in terms of logistics and getting people through, obviously we take a look at every clinic we have and if we need to change operations to make things smoother, we’ve definitely done that,” McGuinness said. “But overall, we’re really happy with the partnership and we’re really happy with our efforts with the county to help with one of these clinics.” Δ

—Malea Martin

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

SLO and Santa Barbara counties stay in purple tier

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2021 at 5:05 PM

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties will both spend at least another two weeks in California’s most restrictive purple tier, according to new state COVID-19 metrics released Feb. 16.
GOOD TRENDS SLO County’s COVID-19 case rate is on a downward slope since a peak in January. - IMAGE COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
  • GOOD TRENDS SLO County’s COVID-19 case rate is on a downward slope since a peak in January.

SLO County nearly qualified to move into the red tier—which would’ve opened indoor spaces at gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters—but a spike in the positivity rate among disproportionately impacted populations, known as the “health equity” metric, halted its progress.

The positivity rate in those disadvantaged census tracts rose from 4.8 percent to 5.9 percent during the first week of February—putting the red tier just out of reach, county officials said.

“Last week, we hit the first week of possibly qualifying for the red tier—if we retained the same status for two weeks,” explained Michelle Shoresman, a public information officer for SLO County Public Health. “Our overall test positivity rate remained at a level that would qualify us. What changed was our test positivity in the health equity quartile went up.”

While the news is a blow to businesses hoping to reopen this week, the COVID-19 numbers are mostly moving in a positive direction. SLO County’s overall positivity rate fell to 4.3 percent on Feb. 6 and its adjusted case rate is 15.6. Both numbers are the lowest they’ve been in at least two months.

Santa Barbara County is faring worse than SLO County. Its adjusted case rate is 27 and positivity rate is 8.2 percent. Santa Barbara County’s health equity rate is one of the highest in the state at 13.3 percent.

Neither county has qualified for the red tier since November 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order in early December, which he lifted on Jan. 25. Δ
—Peter Johnson

Monday, February 15, 2021

Bill giving pandemic assistance to special districts is reintroduced

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2021 at 5:35 PM

Special districts throughout California are still ineligible for federal assistance, as the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis continue, but federal legislation to fix that was recently reintroduced in Congress.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reintroduced House Resolution 7073—the Special Districts Provide Essential Services Act—which U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) is an original cosponsor of.

The legislation proposes to make special districts eligible for payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund if more than $150 billion is appropriated to the fund.
RELIEF Local special districts, like the Los Osos CSD (wastewater facility pictured), are once again sending letters in support of legislation that would enable them to receive federal COVID-19 relief. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • RELIEF Local special districts, like the Los Osos CSD (wastewater facility pictured), are once again sending letters in support of legislation that would enable them to receive federal COVID-19 relief.

Special districts are currently ineligible for relief funds because the U.S. Department of Treasury doesn’t consider it to be a local unit of government under the CARES Act for the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Charlotte Holifield, coastal network affairs field coordinator for the California Special Districts Association, said the National Special Districts Coalition completed a survey of special districts throughout the country on Feb. 5, 2021, to gauge updated impacts on special districts.

“A key takeaway is that only 11 percent of special districts have received any form of federal, state, or local COVID-19 relief to date, even as cities, counties, businesses, and nonprofits have received billions of dollars,” Holifield said.

To date, the cumulative impact to special districts is $1.92 billion. The lack of financial support has caused 42 percent of special districts to reduce their essential services and 33 percent to reduce their workforce.

Last July, the Templeton, Cambria, and Los Osos CSDs, the Cambria Community Healthcare District, the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District, and Upper Salinas-Las Tables Resource Conservation District all sent letters to Congress supporting the original legislation.

The Los Osos CSD submitted their letter of support again and the Templeton CSD is slated to approve their letter at its Feb. 16 district board meeting.

Templeton CSD’s Parks and Recreation Department has suffered during the pandemic, as the district furloughed the department’s staff and has only been able to bring back one person at full-time capacity.

Parks and recreation programs were canceled last year and as of 2021, it had to cancel two more programs, costing the department $90,460 in revenue. The department has also lost approximately $80,000 from canceled fundraising events and lost rent at its community facility.

While the district has taken steps to save the department, it anticipates additional loss of revenue if California does not reach the orange tier by the end of the summer.

“Our employees are on the frontlines, yet our local government agency has yet to receive the direct access to funding that other government agencies, as well as businesses, and nonprofits have received,” the district’s letter read. Δ

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

SLO County gets $7.7 million from FEMA for COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2021 at 11:40 AM

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Feb. 4 that it’s granting San Luis Obispo County at least $7.7 million to help cover the costs associated with the county running its recently opened COVID-19 vaccinations clinics.

FEMA’s funds will support county clinics at the Paso Robles Event Center, Cuesta College, and Arroyo Grande High School—which are currently the main locations for locals aged 75 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

SHOTS Gina Whitaker, right, answers questions before getting a COVID-19 vaccine at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • SHOTS Gina Whitaker, right, answers questions before getting a COVID-19 vaccine at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo.
According to a FEMA press release, the grant reimburses SLO County for facility costs and personal protective equipment, supplies critical to handling and administering the vaccine, and a public information campaign.

It’s part of a multi-billion-dollar campaign to aid states and localities as they mobilize to vaccinate the population. As of Feb. 9, FEMA had spent $3.15 billion on the effort, according to its website.

“We remain committed to helping Americans in their time of need and will continue to work with our partners to stop the spread of this disease,” the FEMA press release read.

SLO County is eligible for up to $15.4 million in relief to cover its clinic costs, pending documentation proving the expenditures.

As of Feb. 5, SLO County had delivered nearly 20,000 first doses of vaccine to residents at the three clinics. Due to a dramatic dip in vaccine supply, the county Public Health Department canceled all of its appointments at the Paso Robles and Arroyo Grande clinics for the week of Feb. 8. Δ

—Peter Johnson

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Dignity Health is hosting a virtual discussion about the COVID-19 vaccine

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 3:48 PM

In an effort to address concerns and myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, Dignity Health Central Coast is inviting the community to join a virtual discussion with health experts on Feb. 3 in English and Mixteco.

From 6 to 8 p.m. via Zoom, the health care network’s local physicians will address common questions and myths about the coronavirus vaccine, Dignity Health Central Coast spokesperson Sara San Juan said.

VACCINE TALK Dignity Health is hosting a virtual discussion in English and Mixteco about the COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Herencia Indigena. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • VACCINE TALK Dignity Health is hosting a virtual discussion in English and Mixteco about the COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with Herencia Indigena.
“Our purpose is to reach those patient populations that are most at risk. This will help give local individuals a better understanding of the benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered to them, where they may be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and details about it,” San Juan said.

According to San Luis Obispo County’s coronavirus statistics, as of Feb. 1, approximately 22.9 percent of the county’s population is Hispanic and Latino, a demographic that makes up about 32.8 percent of the county’s positive COVID-19 cases since March 2020—5,872 cases. Individuals who identify as white account for 68.5 percent of the population and have had 35.4 percent of positive cases since March 2020.

Over the past few months, San Juan said, the community has shared its concerns with Dignity, and the network felt that a virtual event would be a great way for the community to engage with local experts and providers.

“While there are some misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine, Dignity Health Central Coast wants community members to know it is a safe and effective way to protect against the coronavirus and slowing the spread of the virus in our communities,” she said. “This is one of the collaborative approaches we are taking to address questions and concerns among local Spanish-speaking community members.”

Dignity Health is hosting the virtual event in partnership with Herencia Indigena, and so Herencia Indigena Director Irebid Gilbert—who is part of the Marian Regional Medical Center Mixteco interpreting team—will participate in the discussion alongside Dignity Community Health Manager Patty Herrera.

The hospital is hoping the community members see the “transparency of our local providers while increasing the receptiveness toward the vaccine,” San Juan said.

“Our intention for this informative session is to share myths and facts about COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccination, and the importance of taking preventative measures to protect yourself and their families,” she said. “We want to help our communities understand that there is scientific data to prove the vaccine is safe and effective, and to address any misconceptions or questions they may have about the virus or the vaccine in an accessible, open platform.”

Attendees can submit their questions ahead of the event or ask them during the live event via the chat box feature in Zoom. The virtual event will be held Feb. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.

To register for the free virtual event, visit https://bit.ly/3nyJN4x. ∆

—Karen Garcia

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

SLO Village seniors looking for rides to vaccination appointments

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2021 at 12:39 PM

Local membership-based organization SLO Village is calling on San Luis Obispo community members to become volunteer drivers for seniors in need of a ride.

VOLUNTEERS SLO Village is looking for volunteer drivers to provide transportation to seniors in the city of SLO. This photo was taken pre-pandemic. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO VILLAGE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SLO VILLAGE
  • VOLUNTEERS SLO Village is looking for volunteer drivers to provide transportation to seniors in the city of SLO. This photo was taken pre-pandemic.
SLO Village Volunteer Coordinator Megan McGreen told New Times that SLO Village has about 55 members throughout SLO County who rely on the organization’s volunteers to provide transportation, house and gardening maintenance, computer assistance, meal delivery, social and education events, and companionship.

The goal is to empower seniors in the county to continue living successfully in their own homes and communities. SLO Village prides itself on cultivating a community of 45 volunteers and its members who work together to create a better aging experience.

Last year, local and state guidelines established to slow the spread of the coronavirus changed the way SLO Village volunteers could help the organization's members. McGreen said companionship visits occur outside at a safe distance with members who requested it, deliveries have continued, and social activities moved online.

Currently, SLO Village needs volunteers who can provide seniors with transportation to medical and COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Executive Director Kerry Sheets said the organization started receiving ride requests to vaccination sites, as most seniors are now eligible to get vaccinated. In the city of SLO, she said, one of the vaccination sites is in a medical plaza off Johnson Avenue and Bishop Street—if the parking lot is full, you have to park down the street and walk.

“One thing our drivers do is pick you up from your home, and not only take you to the appointment but walk you into the building,” Sheets said. “The volunteer will wait until the appointment is over or give you their number to call when you’re ready.”

Unlike rideshare services like Uber, Sheets said the volunteers take more time to help a SLO Village member, make conversation, and form a bond.

In order to become a volunteer driver, the organization requires a valid driver’s license, a driving record from the DMV, and a copy of registration and insurance.

To keep SLO Village members and volunteers safe, the organization recommends that drivers wear a mask at all times, wipe down and clean their car before providing a ride, have the passenger sit in the back seat, and keep the windows down if possible.

McGreen said the organization is hoping to gain at least five more drivers in the San Luis Obispo area. For more information or a volunteer application, visit slovillage.org. ∆

—Karen Garcia
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