Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Public Health Confirms Four New COVID-19 Cases, Making 88 This Month

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 4:14 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed four new COVID-19 cases today, which on the heels of yesterday's dozen makes 88 so far this month.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors this morning, Health Officer Teresa Frankovich noted that while it took Humboldt County 105 days to get to 109 cases, that number had doubled over the past 45 days.

"It's no secret that our numbers are definitely increasing," she said. "They're being driven by travel, gatherings or the two of those things combined."

Humboldt County has seen a total of 221 cases to date, and Frankovich noted that she's seeing a growing percentage of those cases in people under the age of 50. While that demographic is statistically less likely to suffer the critical outcomes that lead to hospitalizations, intensive care and death, she said it's worrisome because the more the virus gains a foothold in the local community the more likely it is to transfer to at-risk populations.

"What we are likely to see here is what's been seen elsewhere," she said. "There's an increase in case numbers, followed down the road by increases in hospitalizations, ICUs and even deaths, because COVID moves through other parts of the population."


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.

Frankovich offered the board a bit of good news on this front, saying the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory — which currently has a daily capacity of testing about 100 samples — was successful in getting a new piece of equipment that will allow the testing of up to 300 samples.

"That's hugely helpful," Frankovich said, explaining that while the turnaround time at corporate laboratories is currently a week or more, the public health lab can regularly turn around results in 24 to 72 hours, greatly enhancing the ability of contact investigations to limit exposures and isolate people who may have the virus before they can spread it.

The state's contract with OptumServe ends in August, and Frankovich said the county is actively looking at other possibilities, feeling a more rapid testing infrastructure is crucial to the county's ability to monitor and control the virus moving forward.

With today's cases, the county has confirmed 54 over the past 14 days, which equates to about 40 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. While that number is concerning, Frankovich said the county is currently still well short of the positivity metric that would also have to be met to put the county on the list. While the state has set the threshold of 8 percent of a county's cases coming back positive, Humboldt County has seen a 3.8 parent positive test rate over the past two weeks.

"The thing that's keeping us off right now is the positivity rate," Frankovich said. "We're still below that cutoff rate for the state, and that's great."

Asked about local schools' plans for opening in the fall, Frankovich said most schools are planning for three scenarios: a return to full on campus learning, a continuation of the distance learning that ended last year or a hybrid model that seeks to get kids some in-person instruction but reduces class sizes.

"I admire the schools because it's just such a changing landscape and it's frustrating and challenging, I think, to plan for three different contingencies all at once," she said. "They've done a great job of trying t map this out at warp speed."

But ultimately, she said, whether schools open in the fall will have a lot to do with the spread of COVID through the local community and testing capacity.

"Much of this depends on if we're able to remain off that county monitoring list," she said. "I'm asking everyone to really help with that — do the masking, distancing and not gathering — so we can stay off the monitoring list."

And the health officer also issued a bit of a harm reduction plea, saying that while gathering with people outside a person's household unit remains prohibited under state and county orders, she understands people are social creatures and miss in-person interaction. But she implored people who feel they have to violate the health orders to do so safely, and not to travel out of the local area.

"If you're going to see people outside your household unit, make it small," she said. "Pick the people most important to you and just see those people. Stay with that, stay outside, stay masked and try to help make it as safe as possible if you're going to do this."

At the conclusion of her presentation, Frankovich added one more plea for people to wear facial coverings while out in public as mandated by her order, saying that while the masks were initially thought to mainly protect the wearer from spreading the virus to others, there's some "growing evidence" showing they may also be effective in protecting the wearer from contracting the virus.

"There's a benefit to the wearer as well as the people around you," she said. "The recommendations have changed over time but that's how science works — we respond to information we're seeing over time."

Today's results come after 215 samples were tested.

The county raised its overall COVID alert level — which runs on a scale of 1 to 4 — to 3 last week, after seeing 24 cases confirmed. 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."

Humboldt County spike of 88 new cases confirmed this month comes as rates of infection and hospitalizations have surged elsewhere in the state and nation. Nationwide, 4.3 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed (54,448 of them today), including 147,672 fatalities. California is also seeing a pike in cases, confirming 6,000 new ones yesterday for a total of 466,550 to date, including 8,518 deaths.

To date, the county has seen 221 local cases, including 17 hospitalizations and four fatalities, all of them of residents at Alder Bay Assisted Living.

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:
July 28, 2020 - Four Additional Cases Reported Today

707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 7pm Opens in new window
Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported today, bringing to 221 the total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus.

While Humboldt County has fared better in terms of case counts than many other areas of the state according to Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich, recent trends are a cause for concern.

“It took 105 days for our county to reach 109 cases, but we doubled that number in just 45 days,” Dr. Frankovich said. “We can reverse that trend and stay off of the state’s County Monitoring List by using all those simple but effective safety measures we’ve been discussing.” Those measures include wearing a face covering, washing hands regularly, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding gathering with those outside of one’s household.

Today’s alert level stands at a three. Visit humboldtgov.org/dashboard to view the county’s Alert Level Assessment tool.

For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by contacting covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.

Humboldt County COVID-19 Data Dashboard: humboldtgov.org/dashboard,
Follow us on Facebook: @HumCoCOVID19,
Instagram: @HumCoCOVID19,
Twitter: @HumCoCOVID19, and
Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert

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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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