Friday, November 13, 2020

Five New COVID Cases Cap Record Week of Virus Spread in Humboldt

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2020 at 4:35 PM

A day after a record-setting report, Humboldt County Public Health confirmed five new COVID-19 cases today, making 53 this week, the most recorded locally in a single week since the pandemic began.

Yesterday's report — which included results from Wednesday, as well — tallied 29 new confirmed COVID-19 cases. So far this month, the county has confirmed 87 cases after 59 in all of October. Yesterday, Humboldt County Deputy Health Officer Josh Ennis called the rate of spread locally "concerning" and cautioned that the safest course of action is for residents to "assume anyone you interact with could have the virus."

Recent weeks have seen the virus surge nationally and within California in what officials have described as a third wave of disease, with numbers jumping sharply in virtually all regions of the country and healthcare systems in some states becoming overwhelmed.

Today, the California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory strongly discouraging non-essential travel and urging residents to stay close to home when possible. Those who do travel into the state are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, and local officials are asking anyone who leaves Humboldt County to do the same after their return.

Locally, officials have increasingly sounded the alarm that October's lull in confirmed virus activity seems to have come to an abrupt end just as inclement weather and flu season commence.

"What we're looking at now is many smaller clusters of cases that are seemingly unrelated, and so the cases are scattered throughout," Ennis said during a media availability Tuesday. "This is very different from what we experienced a couple months ago, which was related to a couple big clusters we were chasing for some time. So this is very different this time around and I would like to put the call out to really make responsible decisions and question if now is the time to be travelling out of state, and bringing multiple, different households from different areas together."

Ennis warned a couple of weeks ago that he believed there was more virus circulating locally than the county was confirming based on hospitalization census numbers. According to a California Department of Public Health database, three Humboldt County patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and another four patients are suspected to have the disease, with both numbers having increased since yesterday.

Today's cases were reported after laboratories processed 336 samples with a positivity rate of 1.5 percent.

To date, 658 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 39 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 10 confirmed COVID-related fatalities.

Meanwhile, Humboldt retains its “minimal” COVID risk status, according to the data released today under California’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy," which was updated Tuesday based on data for the week ending Oct. 31.

Humboldt currently has an adjusted case rate of 2.0 — which the state describes as a seven-day average of daily cases with a seven-day lag time of daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people — and a positivity rate of 1.0 percent. Overall, the state stands at a case rate of 8.4 per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 3.4 percent.

But, as local health officials have repeatedly warned in recent weeks, an uptick in cases could propel Humboldt in the “moderate” tier, which would bring more restrictions to local businesses. Even before today's report, it seemed Humboldt County was poised to be moved into a more restrictive tier.

For the week ending Nov. 7, the county averaged 3.6 new cases per 100,000 residents with a test-positivity rate of 1.8 percent — numbers that would place it solidly in the state's "moderate" risk tier if they persisted for two more weeks. This week, the county averaged 5.6 daily cases per 100,000 residents with a test-positivity rate of 2.7 percent, which would push the county into the state's "substantial" risk tier, forcing bars to close and restaurants, gyms and other businesses to significantly curtail indoor operations.

Nationwide, 10.5 million people have tested positive for the disease, including 194,610 yesterday, with 242,216 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California, meanwhile, has seen 998,502 confirmed cases, including 18,137 fatalities.

The county is encouraging those who are asymptomatic to sign up for a free COVID test at the OptumServe site in Eureka. Appointments can be made by calling 888-634-1123 or visit lhi.care/covidtesting.

Right now, under the lower risk category, most indoor businesses — including bars — can reopen but the county can put further restrictions in place, according to the state. Read more about what it means here.

The Humboldt County Data Dashboard includes hospitalization rates by age group, death rates by age group and case totals by ZIP code, the latter of which are reported in "a range of 0 to 5 for case count until the area surpasses 5 total cases," according to the county.

After that threshold has been reached in a ZIP code, the exact number will be included.

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. See the county's full press release copied below:

Nov. 13, 2020 - Five New Cases Reported Today; Travel Advisory Issued by State

707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm Opens in new window
Five new cases of COVID-19 were reported today, bringing to 658 the total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today issued a travel advisory in response to the recent increase in the statewide case rate. The advisory strongly discourages non-essential travel and urges residents to stay close to home as much as possible. Travelers coming into California are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, and anyone who leaves the county should also self-quarantine for two weeks upon return.

Locals traveling out of the area and out-of-town visitors traveling to Humboldt County for gatherings continue to be a big driver of local cases, according to Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Josh Ennis. “The state’s travel advisory acknowledges that our experience locally is similar across the state, and further emphasizes that we as individuals have to make changes in order to slow the spread of this virus,” he said.

To read CDPH’s advisory in full, visit cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Travel-Advisory.aspx.

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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