Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Humboldt Goes 'Minimal' but Ranking Could Be Fleeting

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2020 at 11:52 AM

click to enlarge Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
  • Health Officer Teresa Frankovich
Humboldt County was the only one in California to meet the state’s newly applied "equity metric," which is meant to ensure certain communities are not disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

That, according to county Health Officer Teresa Frankovich, is what prompted the state to move Humboldt into the “minimal” COVID risk category under California's four-tiered system for determining the level of activity allowed based on test positivity rates and cases per 100,000 individuals.

Under the lowest risk category, most indoor businesses can reopen but the county can put further restrictions in place, according to the state. Read more about what it means here.

In essence, the equity metric requires counties to close gaps in infection rates or hospitalizations and work to address COVID-19 impacts across all  communities, including lower income residents who are more likely to be on frontline jobs and persons of color in order to move forward in the state's tiered system.

Under the latest data, Humboldt has a test positivity rate of 1.5 percent and averages 2 cases per 100,000 individuals, which is above the 1 case per 100,000 threshold a county is supposed to meet in order to be in the minimal category.

The state averages 7.1 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of 3.2 percent.

Frankovich described the new designation as “great news” but also cautioned that it could be fleeting, with an increase in case rates over the next weeks enough to push Humboldt back into a more restrictive tier.

“If we want to stay in yellow, we all have to adhere to the safety measures that have helped get us here,” she said in a news release.

Humboldt is the largest of the seven California counties to reach the minimal level.

Frankovich praised residents and the efforts of Public Health and Emergency Operations Center response staff for Humboldt, the first rural county in the United State to have a confirmed COVID-19 case, to be in the position it is today.

“Living through and navigating this global pandemic has required herculean efforts from our entire community,” she said. “We could not have gotten here if not for this community’s commitment to the health and safety of our friends and neighbors.”


Read the county's release below:
Many local businesses and organizations can now expand services and increase occupancy and capacity limits after the California Department of Public Health moved Humboldt County into the least restrictive “yellow” tier under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

Humboldt is the largest of the seven California counties to have achieved yellow tier status. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich said this improvement is a result of county residents practicing COVID-19 safety measures and the work of Public Health and Emergency Operations Center response staff. “

Living through and navigating this global pandemic has required herculean efforts from our entire community,” she said. “We could not have gotten here if not for this community’s commitment to the health and safety of our friends and neighbors.” Tier assignments are based on a county’s COVID-19 case count and positivity rate. Local case and positivity rates are 2.0 and 1.5 respectively.

Humboldt was the only county to meet the state’s Health Equity Metric, which is intended to ensure that no population group is disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. Meeting this metric allowed the county to move into yellow even though its case rate remains in the orange tier.

Dr. Frankovich called this “great news” for the community but warned that it is important for everyone to be aware that an increase in case rate for two weeks will move the county back into a more restrictive tier. “If we want to stay in yellow, we all have to adhere to the safety measures that have helped get us here,” she said. Specific changes to operations under the yellow tier include the following:

Shopping Centers — Common areas may open. Maintain reduced capacity in food courts.

Museums, Zoos and Aquariums — No capacity limit.
Places of Worship — Increased to 50% maximum capacity.
Movie Theatres — Increased to 50% maximum capacity.
Hotels and Lodging — Spa facilities may open.
Fitness centers increased to 50% capacity.
Gyms and Fitness Centers — Saunas, spas and steam rooms may open at 50% capacity.
Restaurants — Increased to 50% maximum capacity.
Wineries — Increased to 50% maximum capacity or 200 people indoors, whichever is fewer.
Bars, Breweries and Distilleries (where no meal is provided) — May operate indoors with modifications and 50% maximum capacity.
Family Entertainment Centers — Increased to 50% maximum capacity. May operate activities that are naturally distanced and enjoyed by a single household unit such as bowling, climbing walls and escape rooms.
Ice and roller skating rinks, bounce houses and ball pits are not allowed currently as the state has not yet released guidance for Indoor Recreation.
Cardrooms, Satellite Wagering — Increased to 50% maximum capacity.

Bars, breweries and distilleries are urged to use caution when resuming indoor operations. Local data places the county right on the edge of the yellow tier. If the county moved back to orange, the state would require these businesses to move outdoors again.

“It’s taken all of us working together to achieve this success, but it wouldn’t take much to move us backward,” Dr. Frankovich said. “Let’s all remain committed to protecting our community’s health and economy by following commonsense safety measures like physical distancing, wearing facial coverings and avoiding gathering with those who live outside of your household unit.”

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. 
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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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