Saturday, May 30, 2020

Humboldt County Law Enforcement Responds to Death of George Floyd

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Humboldt County Sherrif William Honsal, Arcata Police Chief Brian Ahearn and Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson have released statements regarding the arrest and death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd died after a white officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest. In a recording of the altercation by a bystander, Floyd is heard saying that he can't breathe, which is similar to the death of Eric Garner, who died from a chokehold applied by a New York Police Officer in 2014. Floyd's death has sparked many protests around the U.S. demanding justice against police brutality against people of color, but especially of black people. 

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Pandemic Widens Gaps in Regional Food Supply Chain

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 10:37 AM

A Cooperation Humboldt volunteer loads a food box into the trunk of a car. - PHIL GUTIERREZ
  • Phil Gutierrez
  • A Cooperation Humboldt volunteer loads a food box into the trunk of a car.
Can we feed ourselves? This is a question the staff of the Humboldt Food Policy Council (a branch of the larger California organization) has been asking since 2012. Now, with COVID-19 crimping the distribution chain for larger grocery stores and more local residents going hungry due to economic losses, the question seems more important than ever. The answer is complicated.

“It’s been a big question for a while,” says May Patino, HFPC coordinator. “Do we have enough food to sustain the people who live in this region? The reality is we don’t actually know.”

In 2018, the California Department of Public Health released a study revealing that roughly one quarter of Humboldt County children experience food insecurity. Food deserts – census tracts where residents live more than 10 miles from a major grocery store or have little access to transportation to get to fresh food – are one cause of food insecurity. Humboldt County has 10 such census tracts (out of 31 total).

HFPC recently received a grant from the Humboldt Area Foundation to create an emergency food system response that would help pool and share distribution among different organizations. (Full disclosure: I am employed part-time by HAF.) One model under consideration would use a central and satellite hubs for distribution – a place where farmers, for example, could bring product that would be repackaged and redistributed at scale to need.

“We’re hoping this will turn into something that will be adapted and can be reactivated in emergency food situations,” says Patino “We would like to increase some long term food sustainability systems in the region.”

The North Coast Grower’s Association has already taken steps to aggregate supply by creating the Harvest Box Program – a multi-farmer CSA that families can order through the NCGA website.

Michelle Wyler, managing director of the Farm to Market program for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, praised the nimble response of local farmers to COVID’s challenges.

“In general, when COVID hit folks, we had to think about pivoting pretty immediately to more direct sales models,” she says.

Wyler works with farmers statewide and says the Humboldt food system had some advantages, including a well-established sales base in local farmers markets and a later start to the growing season that gave local producers more time to figure out a response. While in other parts of the state some farmers have had to scale back or dump product because they couldn’t sell it or pay for the labor to harvest product, in Humboldt farmers are maintaining or even ramping up production to meet demand.

“It’s been a resurgence for the local food market,” says Wyler, adding that another advantage is that local farmers are less reliant on restaurant or wholesale sales, and thus the restaurant industry’s nosedive due to shelter in place is not having the same ripple effects on farmers that it might in other areas of the state.

“A next step would be figuring out what product is viable locally,” says Wyler. “Local product is not going to fill demand.”

To meet demand through larger suppliers and non-local producers, the problem is again distribution. Humboldt County is often compared to an island because of its rural remove from the rest of the state and — like an island – some worry that it could be cut off from the supply chain entirely.

Melanie Bettenhausen, HFPC member and former general manager of the North Coast Co-Op, thinks about distribution a lot.

“We’re so dependent on food that’s coming [from] out of the area,” she says, adding that unwieldy nature of some federal relief programs has revealed the vulnerability of our isolation. “Just participating in some of the USDA programs that are related to COVID-19 relief— they don’t go through our area. They’re for Northern California and Santa Rosa is Northern California. You have to convince drivers to divert from the I-5. And then often they have to be reloaded onto a smaller truck so they can get through Richardson Grove.”

This is true, too, she says, for grocery stores and other wholesale suppliers, many of which struggled to keep ahead of product shortages in the early days of the pandemic. This bottleneck exacerbated an existing problem for small service providers, especially those in rural areas.

“The thing we have keyed into in relation to pandemic is we have organizations who need access to food and they aren’t able to order from distributors, and they also aren’t able to purchase enough of the supplies they need at the store,” Bettenhausen says. “They’re treating all organizations the same.”

Bettenhausen says many smaller nonprofits, such as those that feed or house people, go to Costco or WinCo and buy what their clients need at retail prices, which is not cost effective. But most distributors have a minimum order price that is out of reach for nonprofits. A distribution hub model would be a better solution — allowing bulk purchasing that could be aggregated and then redistributed according to need. But that model comes with its own logistical challenges: cold storage, billing, moving product in and out of the facility. And then there’s the continued challenge of reaching rural areas, which would require refrigerated trucking and a sustainable financial model.

“Our food system feels precarious,” Bettenhausen says. “I personally think we need some policies at the county level addressing food policies and a system response to need. I saw the lack at the co-op when we had the planned power outage, all that food going to waste. The assumption was that those grocery stores are there to sell food but what if they can’t? The solution could be as simple as a partnership with the county to make sure grocery stores have generators.”

These supply chain issues, Bettenhausen says, have been apparent for a long time. It’s only now that they’ve become a more urgent priority.

“These are things are things we’ve known, but a lot of times because there’s no crisis, we have no momentum,” she said. COVID-19 may have changed that.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of census tracts in Humboldt County, which is 31, not 25. We apologize for the error.
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Vehicle Overturned on Highway 101 by Miranda

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 9:49 AM

Traffic is temporarily being diverted off U.S. Highway 101 and across the Salmon Creek exit and onramp near Miranda after a black Nissan Rouge hit the guardrail and overturned about 8 a.m., according to the CHP Traffic Incident Information Page.

An ambulance was called to the scene as an occupant had a head injury.

There is quite a bit of debris in the roadway and Caltrans was dispatched over the scanner to deal with a large area of torn up guardrail.

Update 9:50 a.m.: CHP is reporting that the patient received minor injuries. It also reports that both northbound and southbound lanes are open.
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Friday, May 29, 2020

Salvation Army to Host Drive-Thru Food Box Distribution

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 8:01 PM

The Salvation Army of Eureka is hosting a drive-thru food box distribution at its Tydd Street location from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday to help those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A news release states 400 boxes will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and individuals are asked to bring identification. The idea of the drive-thru is to help “ensure the safety of clients, employees and volunteers amid the pandemic,” according to the Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army’s mission is to meet human need without discrimination,” the release states. “When this crisis began, the nonprofit stepped up its services to help those most vulnerable. Providing food has been a main part of that response.”

The Salvation Army of Eureka is located at 2123 Tydd St. For more information, click here or call 442-6475.
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Sign of the Times: McKinleyville High Seniors Receive a Special Delivery, LoCO Reports

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 7:31 PM

The Lost Coast Outpost reports that faculty and staff at McKinleyville High School trekked from Orick to Eureka today to place homemade signs on the lawns of graduating seniors, who along with others across the county and the nation are missing out on the traditional rites of passage at this major milestone.

According to the story, about 30 people were involved with organizing, creating and transporting the special deliveries. Other communities, including Fortuna and Southern Humboldt, have embarked on similar efforts to celebrate the class of 2020. Read the full story here.
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Humboldt COVID-19 Cases Now Total 99

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 5:14 PM

A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.
Another Humboldt County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the county’s total to 99. according to today’s report from Public Health.

Three Humboldt County residents have died of the highly contagious virus, including one death reported yesterday. All were residents of Alder Bay Assisted Living Facility in Eureka. Read this week’s stories here and here.

There were no confirmed cases yesterday and four on Wednesday, all of which were acquired through contact with another known case, continuing a spike that had seen 45 new cases confirmed since May 9.

According to Public Health, about 4.4 percent of Humboldt County's population has been tested to date.

Basics of COVID-19

The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, state that symptoms of novel coronavirus include cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell.

Emergency warning signs needing immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to awaken, and bluish lips or face.

In an emergency situation:

Call ahead to the emergency room or inform the 911 operator of the possibility of a COVID-19 infection and, if possible, put on a face mask.

Symptoms or possible exposure:

In the case of a possible exposure with symptoms — fever and cough or shortness of breath — contact your doctor’s office or the county Department of Health and Human Services, which has a hotline that can be reached during business hours at or at (707) 441-5000.

Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at or at (707) 445-6200.

St. Joseph Health has also set up a virtual assessment tool as an aid to assess risk factors for contracting the illness, which can be found at

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has started a rumor-control webpage that can be found here. For the Journal's latest COVID stories, updates and information resources, click here.

Read the Public Health report below:
One new case of COVID-19 was confirmed today, bringing to 99 the total number of Humboldt County residents who have tested positive for the virus.

The following information is based on the most recent data available for all confirmed cases:
Contact to a Known Case: 58
Travel-Acquired: 24
Community Transmission: 17
Under Investigation: 0
Positive cases by region:
Northern Humboldt: 18
Greater Humboldt Bay Area: 77
Southern Humboldt: 4
Males: 41% Females: 59%
Mean age: 47
Age Range
0-19: 8
20-29: 13
30-39: 19
40-49: 17
50-59: 11
60-69: 21
70-79: 3
80+: 7
Estimated testing rates: Humboldt County: 4,424 per 100,000 residents California: 4,483 per 100,000 residents United States: 4,749 per 100,000 residents
Estimated rate of confirmed cases: Humboldt County: 73 per 100,000 residents California: 261 per 100,000 residents United States: 527 per 100,000 residents
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Lotter Receives $129K to Part Ways with Eureka

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 4:53 PM

  • Dean Lotter
A separation agreement between the city of Eureka and former City Manager Dean Lotter sees him receiving just more than $129,000 to part ways, including a lump sum severance, accrued vacation time and the equivalent of his salary for three pay periods. 

The agreement, which serves as Lotter’s resignation, states that both parties have determined that “they are not effective as a team as they mutually had expected, hoped and demanded of themselves to serve the city’s residents.”

It also states that “Lotter has decided that he would like to pursue other professional opportunities.”

The Midwest native was selected for the post after a months-long nationwide search that saw the Lotter compete with 40 other candidates. His resignation after a scant four months on the job shook up the city’s leadership structure just as Eureka is preparing to tackle difficult budget decisions amid the COVID-19-related economic downturn.

City Attorney Robert Black told councilmembers when they accepted Lotter’s resignation on May 19 that “the separation is a clean one in that both sides are allowed to go their own way and put this situation behind us.”

The council is scheduled to discuss the city manager position on June 2.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct that Lotter will receive the equivalent of three pay periods, or $21,250, as part of the $129,000 separation agreement.

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Eureka Council to Consider Putting Ranked Choice Voting on November Ballot

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 3:44 PM

The Eureka City Council will consider on June 2 placing a measure on the November ballot asking voters to amend the city charter to allow for what is known as ranked choice voting for the mayor and council seats.

The council has been discussing the issue for several months and May 19 directed staff to prepare the resolution for consideration.

Ranked choice voting, as its name suggests, differs from traditional methods by allowing voters to rank their choices in order of preference, in essence creating an instant run-off.

According to the proposed resolution, the measure would need a simple majority to pass.

Under Eureka’s current election system, the individual who receives the most votes wins, regardless of how many candidates or how close the tally, as opposed to the county’s version, in which a run-off is triggered if one candidate does not carry a majority.

This is not the first time the idea has been tossed around in Eureka. As far back as 2005, ranked choice was floated by community groups but never gained traction and, in some case, was met with backlash.

An attachment to the May 19 council agenda packet explains ranked choice voting like this: “Functionally, when electing a single candidate using RCV — as in a race for mayor or ward representative with more than two candidates — all first choices are initially tallied. If any candidate receives a majority of the first choices, that candidate is elected. If no candidate receives a majority, the “instant run-off” process is triggered. The candidate receiving the fewest first choices is eliminated, and the voters for that eliminated candidate now have their second choices counted. The ballots are again tallied and the process continues until one candidate wins a majority. This explains why RCV is sometimes referred to as an instant run-off. "

Find more background information here and the current agenda here.
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UPDATE: Rescue Swimmers, Helicopter, Boats Continue Search for Fallen Hiker

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 12:59 PM

A Coast Guard helicopter searches the waters near College Cove. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • A Coast Guard helicopter searches the waters near College Cove.
The search continues for hiker who fell into the water in the College Cove area near Trinidad on Thursday afternoon.

According to news release, search teams from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, California State Parks, United States Coast Guard and CAL FIRE are using multiple boats, multiple trained rescue swimmers and a Coast Guard helicopter to actively search for the 22 year old from Victorville.
A Coast Guard rescue swimmer is lowered into the water. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • A Coast Guard rescue swimmer is lowered into the water.
The search began yesterday afternoon when a person with the man called to report he had fallen.
Scene at the search. - HCSO
  • HCSO
  • Scene at the search.
Read the full HCSO release below: 
A search and rescue is underway in the Trinidad area for a missing Victorville man.

On May 28, 2020, at about 2:30 p.m., Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to the Elk Head area, north of College Cove, for the report that a 22-year-old male had fallen into the ocean.

Search efforts began immediately for the man and continue today, May 29, with search teams from the Sheriff’s Office, California State Parks, United States Coast Guard and CAL FIRE. Teams are utilizing multiple boats, multiple trained rescue swimmers and a Coast Guard helicopter to actively search for the man.

Anyone with information about this case should contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251.
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NWS Issues Flash Flood Watch as Storms Approach

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 12:36 PM

Areas in green are under a flash flood watch. - NWS
  • NWS
  • Areas in green are under a flash flood watch.
A wallop of wild weather is expected to hit the North Coast overnight, with some areas under a flash flood watch from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday as thunderstorms, heavy rainfall and the potential of some severe hail and gusty winds bear down on the region.

According to the Eureka office of the National Weather Service, “unseasonably heavy rain” is forecast for much of Humboldt and neighboring counties starting tonight and lasting into Saturday.

“Storms may become numerous and train across the same locations for several hours resulting in heavy rainfall rates,” a NWS post states. “Hail will be possible with the strongest storms. In addition, flashy creeks and streams may flow across roadways. Motorists are urged to drive cautiously in areas of heavy rain, and avoid driving across roadways covered by fast flowing water.”

The National Weather Service in Eureka has issued a flash flood watch for the northeastern and northwestern interior of Mendocino, interior areas of Southern Humboldt and southwestern Humboldt.

According to NWS, local rainfall rates of a half inch per hour are possible.
For more information, visit the Eureka office’s website here.
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