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Expat Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus in Morro Bay, , US

By Fogcatchers

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Oct 05, 2020 Update

We Asked: What is currently happening with regard to the Coronavirus outbreak in your area? Please provide as much detail as possible. She replied...

Compared to the larger cities in California, we are doing great! I live in Morro Bay, a small coastal town in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County, We are located exactly half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Covid testing is available free of charge for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals at various locations throughout the county.

The total population for SLO County is 280,000 with 3,685 positive cases. To date, 3,450 people have recovered, There have been 31 deaths. Our population is 70% White, 22% Hispanic or Latino. The Hispanic and Latino communities have been hardest hit.

SLO County participates in Housing for the Harvest, a program to provide temporary hotel housing options for farm and food processing employees to self-isolate if they are COVID-19 positive and do not require hospitalization, or have been exposed and cannot properly self-isolate at home. The State will book hotel rooms and the County will provide important services, such as transportation, meals and wellness checks for those who need to self-isolate for 14 days. This program not only helps farm and food processing workers, but it also helps our community's food suppliers in a particularly challenging time.

All schools will be eligible for returning to in-person instruction without a waiver on October 6, 2020 IF they have have completed a review and consultation of their plan with SLO County. Most of the private schools already opened two weeks ago with a waiver and live classes are in session. Colleges and universities are using remote online learning only. I am not sure what the high schools will do once they are allowed to reopen.

Dine-In restaurants, churches, and movie theaters are open at 25% capacity or 100 patrons, whichever is less. (No limit on restaurant take-out, as before.) Hair salons and barber shops are open. Bars, brewpubs are still closed.

Recent cases are identified as having spread between different households at gatherings. The nature of these gatherings (bringing together people from multiple households for a prolonged time, often indoors or with shared food and beverages) creates the perfect environment for COVID-19 to spread easily and quickly. Therefore, County Health officials continue to prohibit public gatherings of non-household members, No wedding receptions, dinner parties or Celebration of Life services yet.

For those who are aware of California's color-coded tier system, we are in the red tier. Each county must follow State guidelines but may allow or restrict certain activities based on that county's own Covid numbers. If you are coming to California, check with the particular county to see what activities are allowed..

How People are Coping

We Asked: How are people handling the situation in your area? She replied...

I think all of us are quite tired of the restrictions but for the most part, residents are adhering to the safety protocols. When I go out for my daily walks, the other walkers and joggers are wearing masks and we give each other at least 6 feet of social distancing to pass on the sidewalk. However, the tourists present the greatest problem. Initially, they didn't want to respect our rules. (I'm referring to visitors from other areas of California, not other countries.) Now, however, they wear masks reluctantly, haphazardly, but generally still don't comply with the distancing mandates. It's easy to spot the tourists!

Government Response

We Asked: Describe how the government of the country about which you are reporting is handling this situation. She replied...

The United States is very large. Our regions are so politically diverse, and as the rest of the world knows, we have not had a national mandate regarding Covid-19.

I can only speak for California. Morro Bay is a tourist destination. While the counties to the north and south of us closed their beaches to non-residents, SLO County did not. Sadly, our city has promoted tourism to try and keep the hotels and restaurants in business, Our beaches are open, our town is flooded with visitors from around the western states. There has never been law enforcement of the Governor's order because it is a temporary emergency order and not a law. In reality, it is a political decision to not offend the Trump supporters while placing the rest of us at risk.

Supplies and Shortages

We Asked: Is there a shortage of supplies in your location? She replied...

We still don't have N-95 masks, but the Chinese KN-95 masks are readily available. They do not offer the same protection. Lumber and building materials, pick-up trucks and random food items are in short supply. Housing prices are skyrocketing all around the nation as people migrate from cities to suburbs and continue to work remotely.

Travel Restrictions and Related COVID-19 Testing

We Asked: Are non-citizens allowed to travel to your country? Describe travel restrictions, COVID-19 testing requirements and any details about traveling into your country. She replied...

The rules seems to change daily and the exceptions are not logical. As of this writing, anyone who has been in the following countries in the past 14 days are denied entry: China, Iran, European Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Brazil. That being said, certain family members and others who meet exceptions will be allowed to enter. Anyone who is interested in coming to the U.S. from another country is advised to check the current restrictions.

Health Insurance Requirements

We Asked: Is health insurance required when traveling into the country? Is it required when applying for residency? Is this a new requirement since COVID-19? Describe the health insurance requirement. She replied...

Health insurance is no longer required for anyone in the U.S. because the requirement under Obamacare was rescinded by Congress. However, the health insurance you have in your home country probably won't cover you here.

COVID-19 Testing

We Asked: How easy or difficult is it to get a COVID-19 test locally? Where can you get tested? Do you need to have symptoms or a prescription from a doctor? Describe the process. She replied...

It is very easy to get a Covid-19 test locally in SLO County. There are several County test sites and they are free. You do not have to have symptoms to qualify for free testing. Just show up and get tested.

Public Healthcare & Public Hospitals

We Asked: Are you enrolled in the public healthcare system where you live? Do you feel that the public hospitals are handling or preparing for the Coronavirus outbreak effectively? She replied...

We currently have 6 hospital beds and 1 ICU bed occupied by Covid patients. There are nearly 700 hospital beds in SLO County, so you can see that we are minimally impacted by the pandemic at this time.

Private Health Insurance & Private Hospitals

We Asked: Do you have private health insurance? If you have private insurance, does this give you access to private hospitals? Are private hospitals or clinics better prepared, less prepared, or the same? Please explain. She replied...

Yes, my family is covered by private health insurance. It is shockingly expensive for very little coverage. It focuses primarily on major medical events. Otherwise, the basic things like doctor visits are paid out of pocket at a discounted rate and apply towards an annual deductible amount, But if we have a serious accident or medical emergency, we will be very glad to have the coverage.

Hospital of Choice for Coronavirus Treatment

We Asked: Would you choose a public or private hospital if you needed treatment for Coronavirus? Why? If there is a specific hospital that you would go to in the event of severe illness? Which hospital and why? She replied...

There are a few hospitals in SLO County, and I would go to French Hospital if needed. It has the best reputation. For major surgery or cancer treatment, I might opt to go to a hospital at one of the medical centers in a larger city.

Residency & Visa

We Asked: Are new residency applications being processed? Have there been any changes or extensions made in terms of residency and other visa renewals? She replied...

For the most part, visa applications are being routinely denied. I don't know about visas for the very wealthy who want to invest millions of dollars in the U.S.. but I suspect that if you have enough money, you can buy your way in. This is likely to change very soon depending on who is elected in November. If Mr. Trump wins, immigration will come to a virtual halt and deportations will be ramped up to alarming proportions. If Mr. Biden wins the election, immigration will reopen and visas will be processed again for every category. Americans living on foreign soil need to vote in this election!

Future Outlook

We Asked: Are you considering returning to your home country due to the Coronavirus? Would this be a temporary move or a permanent repatriation? Please explain. She replied...

The U.S. is my country of citizenship. My spouse and I were pursuing permanent residency in Canada in 2017-2019, but we came home for family reasons. Now we are going back. I am enrolled in college in Canada and will begin classes remotely in January, 2021, unless the school decides to hold in-person classes before then. We applied for new work and study permits and our applications are being processed. The processing times are much longer now. Americans are applying to Canada in record numbers.

Other Thoughts

We Asked: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share? She replied...

If I were trying to come to the U.S. as a temporary or permanent worker or student, I would wait until after the election in November and see who is elected. The course of U.S. Immigration policy is completely dependent on who wins the election. If Mr. Biden wins, I would suggest having everything you need to apply ready and submit your application in mid-January, 2021, Prior to that time, any applications will probably be routinely denied. You don't want to say that you were denied entry on future visa applications, so wait until just before the new president is sworn into office. Immigration policy will be one of the first things he tackles.

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