Thursday, December 21, 2017

Update: More Schools Close Down Due to Norovirus Outbreak

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 4:33 PM

COURTESY OF THE CDC
  • Courtesy of the CDC
Update: Add the Fortuna Elementary School District to the growing list, according to a Facebook post. There will be no classes tomorrow at any of the four campuses.

Previously:
Another five schools are closing due to an outbreak of the norovirus with the Rio Dell, Cutten and Fieldbrook districts taking Friday off, according to the county Department of Health and Human Services.

South Bay Union shut down all of its campuses last week and Eureka City Schools followed suit yesterday. All together students at 18 county schools have seen their winter breaks start earlier. Additional schools are contemplating closures, according to the release.

Unfortunately, the circumstances are extremely unpleasant with the norovirus causing nausea, fever, vomiting and other uncomfortable conditions that generally pass on their own after a few days.

The highly contagious virus is notoriously difficult to combat due to its resistance to many disinfectants.

Read the full release from DHHS below:
Due to a further increase in the number of students with symptoms consistent with norovirus, five additional schools have elected to close early for the winter break.

The schools are Eagle Prairie Elementary and Monument Middle School, both in the Rio Dell School District, Ridgewood and Cutten schools in the Cutten School District, and Fieldbrook Elementary School.

The closure of all five schools will take effect Friday morning.

This brings to 18 the number of Humboldt County schools closed due to a norovirus outbreak that first appeared last week. Additional schools are contemplating closure.

There is no cure for the highly contagious virus, which generally passes on its own within a few days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a viral, rather than bacterial, infection. Drinking lots of fluids is recommended to replace those lost during the course of illness.

Symptoms include nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Infected people typically show symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. Infectiousness is believed to last at least 24 hours after recovery.

Hand washing is the best defense. Wash hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water. Hand sanitizing gels and wipes are ineffective against the virus. Clean contaminated surfaces thoroughly with a strong disinfectant such as bleach.

Rio Dell District Facebook post:
Good afternoon Rio Dell School District Families.
We have seen an extremely rapid rise in the number of students in our schools experiencing symptoms of Norovirus. We have worked closely with the County Department of Public Health to determine the best course of action for our district.

As a result, we are taking the precautionary measure of closing our schools to help stop the spread of the illness. The health and safety of our students is our top priority. This means that school will be closed on Friday, December 22nd. The campus closure will ensure the time needed to deep clean our schools before students return to school. Please feel free to pick up your child early today, however, we will continue to run our program through the end of the day.

This also means that we will be postponing the winter festival at this time. We recognize the importance of this event to the community and the students. When we know a date we will let everyone know.

School will resume as normal on January 8th.

Kevin Trone
Superintendent
Rio Dell School District

Fortuna Middle School Facebook post:
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: FESD is closing all schools December 22, 2017 per Public Health. Please share. If you attend FMS, Ambrosini, Toddy, or SFES do NOT come to school tomorrow.

Have a safe break and we will see you January 8, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

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UPDATE: HCSO Releases Names of Involved Officers in Ferndale Shootout

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 11:50 AM

Parral-Aguierre - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Parral-Aguierre
UPDATE: The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has identified the deputies involved in the shooting as
Deputy Rosalie Freixas and Sgt. Gregory Musson. Freixas, who was injured, is "doing well and recovering from her injuries."

In its press release, the officers are credited with exemplifying "courage and strength throughout this incident."

Previously:

With several members of the incident management team standing by, Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal told reporters this morning that the man suspected of wounding one of his deputies in a shootout Sunday morning is a Mexican citizen who entered the country illegally.

According to Honsal, deputies were dispatched after a neighbor called in a domestic disturbance in the 700 block of Coppini Lane, in Ferndale, at around 12:19 a.m. on Sunday. The reporting party said the people involved in the disturbance  did not speak English. Deputies arrived at 12:46 a.m., stationing themselves outside a small "barn-like structure" and calling in through an open doorway. A woman ran out of the building, saying that she had been held against her will by a man later identified as Hugo Parral-Aguierre, and that Parral-Aguierre had a firearm. It was later learned that Parral-Aguierre had been in an argument with the woman's boyfriend, who fled the scene after Parral-Aguierre allegedly shot at him.

Spotting Parral-Aguierre through the doorway, deputies drew their weapons and asked him  to drop his gun, Honsal said. He allegedly opened fire, shooting one round from a 12-gauge shotgun that struck the female deputy in the left shoulder just above her bullet-proof vest. The deputies returned fire while pulling the female victim to safety, then called for countywide mutual aid. Officers from multiple agencies arrived. A SWAT team found Parral-Aguirre on a bed on the bottom floor of the residence. He allegedly resisted but was taken into custody. He was given medical treatment for three gunshot wounds at St. Joseph Hospital then released to the Humboldt County jail. The deputy, whose name has not been released, was treated and released. Honsal says she is on leave and doing well.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

UPDATE: Norovirus hits ECS Prompting School Closures

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 2:26 PM

The norovirus is shutting down ECS campuses. - FILE
  • File
  • The norovirus is shutting down ECS campuses.
Eureka City Schools is confirming that all of the district’s campuses will be closed on the Thursday and Friday before winter break to try to stem an outbreak of the norovirus that closed down South Bay Union School District's three campuses last week.

ECS prepped parents for the possibility yesterday by announcing that absenteeism was above average and administrators were working with the county Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the situation.

“This was a difficult decision to make; however, we believe it is in the best interest of our students, staff and families. We look forward to the return of our students on Monday, January 8,” Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said in a district release.


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Monday, December 18, 2017

Hundreds Line Fortuna's Main Street to Welcome Champs Home

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 8:12 PM

JILLIAN BUTOLPH
  • Jillian Butolph
Hundreds turned out on Fortuna's Main Street this afternoon to welcome home the city's state champion high school football team.

The Fortuna High School Huskies outscored Katella High School 26-6 in the second half of Saturday's CIF State Division 5-A title game to take the championship by a commanding 54-33 score. The team spent Sunday celebrating at Disneyland and returned home this afternoon, complete with a Humboldt County Sheriff's Office escort.

Main Street was lined with fans waiting to greet the team. Our photographer Jillian Butolph was there and shares the following slideshow.


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Supes to Consider Public Defender's $25K Severance Agreement

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 3:21 PM

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn declines to take his seat as the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors convenes its Nov. 22 closed session meeting to discuss the fate of Public Defender David Marcus.
  • First District Supervisor Rex Bohn declines to take his seat as the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors convenes its Nov. 22 closed session meeting to discuss the fate of Public Defender David Marcus.

When the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors convenes tomorrow, it will discuss whether to approve a severance agreement for former Public Defender David Marcus that has already been executed and can’t legally be ratified.

The severance agreement, which followed Marcus’ Nov. 22 resignation after nine embattled months on the job and pays him about $25,000, was signed by Marcus on Nov. 29 and board Chair Virginia Bass on Dec. 7. Per the terms of the agreement, it was to be considered executed after the final signature and contains no clause that would allow the board to amend the agreement or require its ratification.

David Marcus - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • David Marcus
The meeting — which will also see the board consider penning a letter to a state lawmaker pushing a safe injection site bill — will be the third time in recent weeks that Marcus has been on the agenda.

The board met in closed session the day of Marcus’ departure, then again Dec. 5 to formally accept his resignation and appoint Kaleb Cockrum as his interim replacement. But while staff had represented that the board would discuss Marcus’ severance agreement at that meeting — and then maintained that it had implicitly approved the agreement when voting to accept Marcus’ resignation — County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck tells the Journal in an email this morning that wasn’t the case.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Deputy, Suspect Wounded in Shootout Near Ferndale

Posted By on Sun, Dec 17, 2017 at 8:35 AM

cover-badge_.jpg
A Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputy and a suspect were both hospitalized early this morning after a shootout at a residence in the 700 block of Ferndale’s Coppini Lane.

The deputy, whose name hasn’t been released, is in stable condition, according to the sheriff’s office. The suspect, Hugo Parral-Aguierre, 30, was shot multiple times. His condition is currently unknown.

The incident began when deputies were dispatched to the residence for a welfare check shortly after midnight and arrived at 12:50 a.m. According to the press release, the deputy was shot “shortly after arrival.” A standoff at the residence followed and Parral-Aguierre was taken into custody shortly before 4:30 a.m. and transported to a local hospital for treatment.

It’s not immediately clear, but it seems Parral-Aguierre was suffered the gunshot wounds during the initial exchange that wounded the deputy.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

St. Joseph Nurses Decry Operating Room Staffing, Hospital Pledges 'Comprehensive Plan'

Posted By on Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 1:48 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
The California Nurses Association issued a statement this morning indicating that nurses in St. Joseph Hospital’s operating room worked their Friday shifts while formally objecting to what they deem “unsafe staffing” conditions that included a nurse working a 15-hour shift.

According to the association, nurses worked Friday in the operating room under an “assignment Despite Objection,” a formal legal objection that protests unsafe staffing and transfers personal liability from the nurses to the hospital.

“Nurses do not file an ADO form lightly — they do so because they can not abandon their patients but want to ensure that the hospital understand the severity of the situation,” says the statement.

Specifically, the association brings up the 15-hour shift — asking if you would want a nurse heading into his or her 15th hour on duty tending to your surgery — and the fact that St. Joseph allegedly delegated the duties of the operating room’s Charge Nurse — who is typically responsible for coordinating patient care — to “non-nursing personnel.”

In a statement released after the Journal requested a response from St. Joseph, David Southerland, the hospital’s interim chief executive, doesn’t dispute the association’s claims but says the hospital has developed a comprehensive plan with the nursing staff to ensure operating rooms are appropriately staffed.

“Ensuing patient safety and delivering extraordinary care is fundamental to our hospital’s mission and values,” Southerland says. “This is a top priority. In keeping with our commitment to a culture of integrity, active compliance and the delivery of the highest standard of patient care, we have developed a comprehensive plan with nurse leadership in our surgical services department to ensure appropriate levels of staffing in our operating rooms.

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Probation Chief to Retire

Posted By on Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 9:15 AM

A photo of Damiano when he was a young probation officer, in 1988. - SUBMITTED BY MIKE GOLDSBY
  • Submitted by Mike Goldsby
  • A photo of Damiano when he was a young probation officer, in 1988.
Bill Damiano, one of Humboldt County’s longest-serving public servants, has announced he will retire in April of next year. The county's chief probation officer, Damiano first began working in the department Oct. 1, 1988.

“I’ve spent more than half my life here,” Damiano told the Journal in a phone interview. “It’s time for a new leader to come in and see what they can do for the department.”

Damiano, who saw the probation department through the challenges of juvenile and adult realignment, led the office to renewed state incentive funding after meeting goals related to probationer progress, and has been a consistent voice in favor of improved substance abuse treatment and mental health resources. Damiano graduated with a psychology degree from San Diego State and worked in mental health befor beginning his current career. For a long-read about the impact of realignment and Damiano’s thoughts on rehabilitation, here’s a link to a 2012 cover story on the subject.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Update: South Bay District Closes Schools as Norovirus Outbreak Hits

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 3:01 PM

COURTESY OF THE CDC
  • Courtesy of the CDC
Humboldt County health officials are warning parents about an apparent norovirus outbreak that struck more than 130 students in the South Bay Union School District, along with several staff members this week.

The district announced today that it is closing its three campuses beginning Monday and running through Winter Break.

“This precautionary measure will prevent additional student and staff exposure to norovirus," Superintendent Gary Storts said in a release. "The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. Campus closures will ensure the time needed to deep clean both campuses before students return to school on January 8, 2018, and resume our efforts to read, lead, and succeed.”

The highly contagious virus that causes vomiting and other miserable conditions can be difficult to contain due to its resistance to most disinfectants. A similar outbreak in counties to our south earlier this year hit upwards of 4,000 people, eventually spreading from Woodland to West Sacramento and Davis, despite several school closures and extensive decontamination efforts, according to a Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services news release.

The public health laboratory has confirmed that the virus is in play locally with additional tests being conducted today.

Health officials are recommending the usual round of preventative measures to help stop the spread, including staying home when ill, frequent hand washing and cleaning potentially infected surfaces with strong disinfectants, such as bleach.

“We are working quickly to help our local schools prevent further illness, particularly as we near the holiday break,” Public Health Director Michele Stephens said in the release. 

Read the full DHHS releases below:
More than 130 students from the South Bay Union School District are sick from what Public Health officials believe to be a norovirus outbreak centered at Pine Hill School and affecting nearby South Bay and South Bay Charter schools.

One hundred and thirty-two students of 489 enrolled in the three-school district are out today. One hundred and one students were absent Thursday, while 88 missed school on Wednesday.

An unknown number of staff members are also sick. The Public Health Laboratory in Eureka has confirmed the presence of the highly contagious virus, which causes nausea, fever, vomiting, stomach pain and explosive watery diarrhea. Additional laboratory testing will be conducted today. Officials have already documented cases of transmission from students to parents and other family members, so the number of current cases is likely higher.

Infected people typically show symptoms within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. Contagion is believed to last at least 24 hours after recovery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus causes an acute inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

People catch the virus by accidentally ingesting stool or vomit from an infected person. This typically happens by consuming contaminated food or liquids, touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then putting your fingers in your mouth, or sharing food or utensils with someone who is infected. Parents, staff and children are strongly encouraged to go home from school or work if they have any sign of illness, and to remain there at least 24 hours after all symptoms have subsided. There is no cure for norovirus, which generally passes on its own within a few days.

The CDC notes that it cannot be treated with antibiotics, because it is a viral, rather than bacterial, infection. Drinking lots of fluids is recommended to replace those lost during the course of illness. Hand washing is the best defense. Wash hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water. Hand sanitizing gels and wipes are ineffective against the virus. Clean contaminated surfaces thoroughly with a strong disinfectant such as bleach. Even then the virus is often extremely difficult to contain. It can survive on surfaces for weeks, and few disinfectants are effective against it.

An outbreak in Yolo County earlier this year sickened an estimated 4,000 people, and despite exhaustive decontamination efforts resulted in the closure of several schools. The illness spread from Woodland to schools in West Sacramento, Winters, Esparto and Davis, including U.C. Davis.

Public Health officials are working side by side with the staff and superintendent of Pine Hill and South Bay schools, who have pledged their full support in combatting the spread of illness. Department of Health & Humans Services’ Public Health Director Michele Stephens said, “We are working quickly to help our local schools prevent further illness, particularly as we near the holiday break.”

After further discussion between district and Public Health officials, South Bay Union School District will close its three schools, all currently impacted by a norovirus outbreak. The closure will run from Dec. 18 through 22, with the winter break beginning immediately after that.

This decision was bolstered Friday afternoon by an additional pair of positive tests for norovirus related to the outbreak.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Donald Baird declared a local outbreak within the district, which encompasses Pine Hill, South Bay and South Bay Charter schools. More than 130 students have been sickened by the highly contagious virus, which includes symptoms of nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea.

South Bay Union School District Superintendent Gary Storts announced the closure to staff and parents this afternoon, stating, “This precautionary measure will prevent additional student and staff exposure to norovirus. The health and safety of our students and staff is our top priority. Campus closures will ensure the time needed to deep clean both campuses before students return to school on January 8, 2018, and resume our efforts to read, lead, and succeed.”


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Update: Coroner IDs 31st Vehicle Fatality of Year

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 1:23 PM

cudney.jpg
Update: The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office has identified the pedestrian killed in Eureka last night as Dwight Stephen Davis, often known in the community as “Dirty Dave.” He was 71.

Previously:
The death of a pedestrian in Eureka last night marks Humboldt's 31st traffic fatality of the year, officially tying a previous record for the deadliest year in traffic fatalities.

The pedestrian, whose name has not yet been released, was struck by a vehicle near Winco on the 600 block of West Harris Street at around 5:51 p.m. The driver of the vehicle, Gary Joel Cudney, 61, was arrested and booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence.

For more information about our dangerous roads, here's a link to our 2015 cover story that explores why we have one of country's highest vehicle fatality rates.

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