Friday, July 31, 2020

Temporary COVID-19 Testing Site Coming to Arcata

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 7:20 PM

A temporary mobile COVID-19 testing site is coming to the Arcata Community on Aug. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., just after Humboldt County hit a grim milestone in July, reaching 100 confirmed cases, the highest of any month to date.

To make an appointment in Arcata, call 268-2503.

Free testing for those without symptoms is also available at the testing site at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka. With a high demand for testing sometimes impacting the availability of appointments, members of the public are encouraged to continue checking back with Optumserve by visiting https://Lhi.care/covidtesting or calling (888) 634-1123.

Delayed results are also being experienced in Humboldt County and across the nation.

Individuals with symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are asked to call their health care provider or call the Joint Information Center at 441-5000.
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Alder Bay Administrator Did Not Know Possible Source of Facility's COVID Cases Before Bloomberg Column, T-S reports

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 6:48 PM

The administrator of Alder Bay Assisted Living did not know how the COVID-19 virus might have been brought into the facility, leading to the deaths of four residents, before reading about a Bloomberg column on a local news site, according to a Times-Standard story. 

The column “Confessions of a California COVID Nurse” by well-known author Michael Lewis quotes Humboldt County Public Health nurse Erica Dykehouse, who was conducting contact tracing, reportedly tying the Alder Bay infections back to a methamphetamine dealer who refused to isolate himself and spread the virus, among other observations about the local situation.

Read more about the column here and the full Times-Standard story here.
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Public Health Reports 2 New COVID-19 Cases Bringing July's Total to 100

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 4:29 PM

Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory staff Paula Moon (left) and Alyssa McCloud catalog incoming tests. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public Health
  • Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory staff Paula Moon (left) and Alyssa McCloud catalog incoming tests.
Public health reported two new confirmed COVID-19 cases today, bringing the county’s total to 233, with 100 of those in July alone.

"The good news is that we are in a good position to substantially slow transmission of this virus in our community by avoiding contact with those who aren’t a part of our household and limiting non-essential travel as much as possible,” County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich said in a release. “If we all commit to taking these actions together, we can make a huge difference in health outcomes for Humboldt County.”

The county raised its overall COVID alert level — which runs on a scale of 1 to 4 — to 3 last week, where it remains. Level 3 is described as: "High risk — many cases with conditions for community spread, with many undetected cases likely. Limit everyday activities to increase safety."

To date, the county has seen 17 hospitalizations and four fatalities, all of them residents at Alder Bay Assisted Living. One hundred and eight-four of the cases are considered recovered, while the rest remain active.

Humboldt County Public Health is urging residents who aren't experiencing symptoms to get tested free of charge at the mobile testing site at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds. (People experiencing symptoms should contact a healthcare provider, officials say.) Asymptomatic individuals can make an appointment to be tested by visiting https://Lhi.care/covidtesting or calling (888) 634-1123. Tests will be administered free of charge, whether or not people have health insurance.

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 covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at hhsphb@co.humbldt.ca.us 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 here.

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 county's release below and view its case dashboard here:


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EPD Takes Battle of the Badges Blood Drive Title

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 2:02 PM

EPD Capt. Brian Stephens donates during the blood drive. - EPD
  • EPD
  • EPD Capt. Brian Stephens donates during the blood drive.
With 62 donors, the Eureka Police Department bested 17 other local agencies to take the trophy for the third annual Battle of the Badges Blood Drive.

During the drive, a total of 184 people — some employees of participating agency and others community members donating to the Northern California Community Blood Bank on their behalf — stepped up to lie back and give between July 20 to July 24.

“I would like to thank everyone who came out and donated on behalf of our agency,” EPD Capt. Brian Stephens said in a news release. “I would also like to thank everyone who donated throughout the event and supported the various Public Safety agencies. I was there off and on throughout the event and the support was overwhelming.”

He also noted the donations have the potential to save the lives of more than 550 people.

Read the full EPD release below: 
July 20 – 24, 2020, the Northern California Community Blood Bank (NCCBB) held the 3rd Annual Battle of the Badges Blood Drive.

We had 18 different agencies represented either as donors or by having a community member donate on their behalf. A total of 184 donors were seen over the week. This was only four less donors compared to last year’s record breaking one day blood drive.

These donations will push the blood bank through the entire summer.

The Eureka Police Department took the trophy for the second year in a row with 62 donors. The results are listed below:
  • Eureka PD 62
  • Fortuna Fire 4
  • HCSO 44
  • Rio Dell PD 3
  • Arcata PD 16
  • Probation 2
  • Blue Lake Rancheria 13
  • Police Academy 2
  • Fortuna PD 7
  • Welfare Fraud 2
  • District Attorney 7
  • EMS 2
  • CHP 6
  • Hydesville Fire 2
  • Humboldt Bay Fire 6
  • Arcata Fire 1
  • Cal Fire 4
  • DHHS 1
From Captain Stephens, “On behalf of the men and women of the Eureka Police Department we are honored and humbled to win the 2020 Battle of the Badges. I would like to thank everyone who came out and donated on behalf of our agency. I would also like to thank everyone who donated throughout the event and supported the various Public Safety agencies. I was there off and on throughout the event and the support was overwhelming. The 184 donations this year is only 4 off our total from last year and given the changes to our lives caused by the pandemic, I couldn’t be prouder of our community and our Public Safety agencies for stepping up, stepping out and donating the gift of life. These donations could potentially be used to save the lives of 552 people in need of this vital life source. I would like to thank and recognize Dee Valle, Donor Recruiter, for helping coordinate all our events as well as donor recruitments throughout our county and beyond. I would also like to give a huge shout out to the absolutely amazing staff at the Northern California Community Blood Bank for your hard work, incredible hospitality and amazing attitudes. I truly enjoy our time together at events or when donating on my own. Your work saves lives every day! We look forward to seeing you all again, as well as all our supportive donors and maybe some new donors, at our 2021 Battle of the Badges Round 4.”
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Red Salmon Complex Fire Continues to Grow

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 12:16 PM

red-salmon-complex-map-7.31.2020.png
The Red Salmon Complex — which includes the Red Fire and Salmon Fire — has grown to 1,060 acres with zero containment, according to today’s update.

A news release states fire crews are working on the ground to contain the lightning-caused wildfire complex burning in rugged terrain in portions of Humboldt, Trinity and Siskiyou counties and a base has been set up in Willow Creek for the multiple helicopters conducting water drops.

As of this morning, the Red Fire stands at 516 acres and the Salmon Fire at 544 acres. Updates can be found here.

Read the full release below:
The Red Salmon Complex continues to burn in remote wilderness areas of the Six Rivers and Shasta Trinity National Forests. This Complex includes both the Salmon Fire and the Red Fire which currently are a combined total of 1,060 acres and 0% containment.

Firefighters are using a full suppression strategy and utilizing indirect fire attack methods to gain control of both fires. A combination of both ground crews and air resources are being used due to the rugged terrain and challenging access. Multiple helicopters with water bucket drops are supporting ground operations. A helibase is now operational in Willow Creek to provide helicopters with a quicker response to the fire areas.

The Red Fire is currently 516 acres. Firefighters are currently working from Salmon Summit to the south along the ridgelines to open up previous fire containment lines. Crews continue to look for control line opportunities on the west side of the fire.

The Salmon Fire is currently 544 acres. Fire crews continue to strengthen and improve the ridgeline from Salmon Mountain to Megram Ridge using previous fire control lines and previous fire scars. The fire has reached the ridge in this location and firefighters are actively holding the fire.

Crews are looking for opportunities and locations to secure the southern end of the fire back to Back Done Ridge. California Interagency Incident Management Team 14 is working actively to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through various control measures.

Firefighters are screened every morning with a temperature check and health screening. Firefighters are also practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing face coverings throughout camp and as appropriate during operations. For up to date fire information on the Red Salmon Complex and other fires visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov
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Court Bans “Abusive” Spiking, but Sticks with Pension Protections

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 10:51 AM

California Supreme Court justices in San Francisco pre-COVID-19. - COURTESY OF JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA
  • Courtesy of Judicial Council of California
  • California Supreme Court justices in San Francisco pre-COVID-19.
For 65 years, the California Supreme Court has taken a rigid line on pensions for public employees: Any retirement benefits promised to a worker at the outset of a job can only be reduced if they are replaced with something of equal value.

That iron-clad precedent has been dubbed “the California Rule.” Today the state’s high court carved a little wiggle room into that rule. In a case filed by the Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the court found that the county was within its rights to exclude certain forms of bonus pay and overtime when determining the future pension calculations of current employees.

Pension hawks have long derided “pension spiking” — artificially boosting retirement benefits by evoking sick leave or running up overtime just before retirement — as abusive. The court agreed.

But the Supreme Court stopped short of out-and-out nixing the California Rule. In the 90-page opinion written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the court found that “closing loopholes and preventing abuse of the pension system” was consistent with state law that otherwise makes it exceedingly difficult to renege on promised pension benefits for future work.

All seven justices agreed with that logic, with Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar writing his own concurring opinion. The ruling may come at a fortuitous time for public pensions, which amid ever-growing liabilities to current and future retirees are likely to see dismal investment returns during the current catastrophic economic slowdown.

“Public services are being cut across California, some jurisdictions have already announced layoffs and furloughs of public employees, and many counties and cities are struggling to pay for their pension liabilities,” the governor’s lawyer Rei Onishi argued in May.

The decision avoids a dramatic conclusion on either side of the widely watched issue. The central conflict in the case was between the court’s long-standing precedent and a 2012 law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown called the Public Employee Pension Reform Act.


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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Public Health Confirms Three new COVID-19 Cases

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 4:45 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed three new COVID-19 cases today, making 26 so far this week and 98 for the month, as the local spike in caseloads continues.

Two of the new cases are linked to a  known confirmed case, while the third is one of 14 cases that remain under investigation.

In a press release, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich noted that since the beginning of the pandemic, the county has experienced waves of new cases, followed by relative quiet periods in detected virus transmission.

“The epidemiological curve on the data dashboard shows the current wave has been ongoing for more than a month,” she said. “This increase in local disease activity is a reminder that safety precautions are more important than ever. We have the ability to dramatically change the landscape of virus transmission in our community, helping to keep our businesses open and facilitate on-site school instruction for our children.”

The spike in confirmed cases comes as Humboldt County — like much of the state — has seen increasing challenges with testing. The OptumServe testing site set up at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds through a partnership with the state has been a growing source of frustration, as a huge increase in statewide demand and supply chain issues have caused regular delays of a week or more in getting test results. These delays pose problems for contact investigators and public health officials looking to contain clusters of the virus.

Speaking to a columnist from Bloomberg, Public Health nurse Erica Dykehouse, who does contact investigations for the county, expressed frustration at the delayed test results from OptumServe.

From the column:

"'If I look at Optum, I always ask, 'What am I going to do with this because the result is eight to 10 days old?' said Erica. 'Your ability to contain is over.' By the time she got ahold of people to inform them that they had COVID-19, they no longer had COVID-19. There was no point in isolating them."



With today's cases, the county has confirmed 53 over the past 14 days, which equates to about 439 cases per 100,000 residents over that span, far eclipsing the 25 cases per 100,000 residents that is one component of which counties land on the state's watch list, which puts them under tighter restrictions. But the county — with 3.8 percent of tests returning positive over the past week — still stands well shy of the 8-percent positivity rate the state has set for the watch list.

Today's results come after 173 samples were tested. Of Humboldt's 228 confirmed cases to date, 44 remain active.

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Column Quotes HumCo Nurse Tying Fatal COVID-19 Cases to Meth Dealer who Refused to Isolate

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 4:28 PM

The strain of COVID-19 infection that ultimately killed four residents at Alder Bay Assisted Living reportedly started with a methamphetamine dealer who dismissed public health’s advice and refused to isolate himself, Humboldt County Public Health Nurse Erica Dykehouse reportedly told famed author Michael Lewis, who was penning a column for Bloomberg.

Lewis’ column, “Confessions of a California COVID Nurse,” focuses on Dykehouse’s contact tracing investigations, in which she works backward from a positive COVID-19 test, trying to find everyone the new positive case may have exposed to the deadly virus. It offers some illuminating insight into the job, as a well as a level of detail about cases that local officials to date have refused to offer.

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Man Barricaded in Hydesville Home with Firearm

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 4:09 PM

About 3:40 p.m., the Humboldt County SWAT team responded to 3300 block of Mendes Lane in Hydesville for the report of a man barricaded inside a residence with a firearm.

According to scanner traffic, the man was in the second story of the building.

An ambulance was requested to stay outside the area.

“Residents of the area are asked to stay inside,” tweeted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. “Please avoid the area while peace officers are present.”

UPDATE 4:33 p.m.
According to Humboldt County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Samantha Sarges, "deputies are investigating the report of a male with a firearm inside a residence in that area. The man reportedly threatened a resident of the home with the firearm. The resident was able to exit the home to safety. The male suspect is still inside the residence at this time and is refusing to exit."

UPDATE 6:57 p.m.: Deputies made entry into the residence but were unable to locate the suspect. HCSO reports there is no perceived threat to the public at this time and the case is under investigation.
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Drug Task Force Reports Seizing 5 Pounds of Heroin

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 3:14 PM

SUBMITTED
  • submitted
The Humboldt County Drug Task Force reported seizing nearly 5 pound of suspected heroin while seeing a search warrant yesterday, according to a press release.

The warrant, served in the 500 block of Warren Creek Road, was targeting Jack Ryan Skundrich, 34, who is well known to the task force. According to the press release, Skundrich was arrested in January of last year for transporting heroin with a juvenile in the car and charged with felony child endangerment, though he failed to appear in court and has been wanted on a warrant since. Also in January of 2019, agents served a search warrant at his home and seized approximately 6 pounds of heroin and arrested Skundrich's acquaintance, according to the press release.

This time, officers found Skundrich in the home and took him and an acquaintance — Juan Sabino Alvarez, 36, of Sinaloa, Mexico — into custody on suspicion of possessing and transporting a controlled substance. Skundrich was also booked on the outstanding warrant and suspicion of maintaining a drug house.

See the full press release copied below:


PRESS RELEASE

On July 29th, 2020, special agents with the Humboldt County Drug Task Force (HCDTF), with the assistance of the Arcata Police Department, served a search warrant at a residence located in the 500 block of Warren Creek Road, Arcata.

During their ongoing investigation, agents identified Jack Ryan Skundrich (age 34) as a suspected narcotics trafficker distributing heroin throughout Humboldt County. Agents were familiar with Skundrich from previous investigations. In January 2019, agents arrested Skundrich for transporting heroin with a juvenile. Skundrich was charged with felony child endangerment, to which he failed to appear in court, and a felony warrant was issued. Again, in January 2019, agents served a search warrant at Skundrich’s residence and seized approximately 6 pounds of suspected heroin. Skundrich’s acquaintance was arrested during this investigation.

At approximately 4:45 p.m., agents arrived at the residence and detained Skundrich, along with his acquaintance, Juan Sabino Alvarez (age 36 from Sinaloa, Mexico). During a search of the residence and associated vehicles, agents located approximately 5 pounds of suspected heroin packaged for sales. Agents also located over $5,000 in U.S currency that is believed to be profits from illegal narcotics sales. This currency was seized and will be held pending asset forfeiture proceedings.

Skundrich and Alvarez were subsequently placed under arrest for possession and transportation of controlled substances. Skundrich was also charged for operating / maintaining a drug house and a felony warrant for child endangerment. Both subjects were booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility.

Anyone with information related to this investigation or other narcotics related crimes are encouraged to call the Humboldt County Drug Task Force at 707-267-9976 or the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at 707-268-2539.


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