Friday, December 11, 2020

County Confirms 36 New COVID-19 Cases, Topping 200 in a Week for First Time

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2020 at 2:42 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 36 new COVID-19 cases today, capping another record week that saw 217 new cases, far outpacing last week's record of 163 as local case counts continue to spike dramatically.

The announcement comes after Public Health reported the county's 10th COVID-19 related death Wednesday amid a case spike that has now seen 333 new cases confirmed this month after a record-setting total of 328 in November. According to a state database, four patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, including three who are under intensive care, with another patient suspected of having the virus with a test pending.

The county also announced today that it is updating its dashboard to make hospitalization information more readily available to residents, and reports the county only has 10.7 percent of its ICU bed capacity currently available.

Today's cases were confirmed after 478 samples were processed, with a test-positivity rate of 7.5 percent.

In a press release yesterday, the county's Joint Information Center urged locals to get tested, calling it "one of the most helpful things county residents can do for the community at large" because it allows Public Health to catch cases early and limit spread. The state-run OptumServe testing site at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka is open seven days a week and no-cost appointments can be made here or by calling (888) 634-1123.

The county still remains poised to fall under a regional stay-at-home order from the state after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that regions where available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent will be subject to new restrictions.

As of today, the "Northern California region," which includes Humboldt and 10 other counties, had a combined 26.6 percent available ICU capacity, down from the 30.3 percent reported yesterday, according to the state.

Regions that dip below 15, which is expected to happen across the board soon, fall under the the new restrictions, which went into effect today in the Greater Sacramento region and earlier this week in the Southern California region and the San Joaquin region, which together encompass a vast swath of the state.

Where implemented, the order will temporarily close bars, wineries, personal service salons, hair salons and barbershops, while retail stores will be limited to 20 percent capacity and restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery only. Schools that have a waiver will be allowed to remain open to in-person instruction, he said, and critical infrastructure will remain open. The order will also temporarily prohibit all non-essential travel, Newsom said.

The county's steady escalation of cases puts Humboldt solidly in the state's purple "widespread" risk tier, along with nearly all of California's 58 counties, which had already brought new layers of restrictions on local businesses.

The state of California largely depends on two metrics to determine where a county falls in its tier system: the percentage of COVID-19 tests administered that come back positive over a seven-day period and the average number of new positive cases confirmed per 100,000 in population daily over the course of a week. Both have spiked dramatically in recent weeks.

While the state has a case rate of 34 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents with a test positivity rate of 8.4 percent as of Tuesday, Humboldt has a case rate of 12.3 per 100,000 and a 4 percent positivity rate, an increase in both categories. The numbers, however, trail a week behind the current situation and in December, Humboldt County has reported a daily average of 22.4 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 7.8percent.

As is, Humboldt County's purple status has forced restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship to cease all indoor operations, while also imposing the governor's nighttime stay-at-home order, which requires residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. save for essential outings, such as going to work.

The county also reported this week that the outbreak at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has "expanded rapidly" since Nov. 25, when routine testing showed a staff member was positive for COVID.

Since then, 54 residents and 16 staff have tested positive for the virus at the 87-bed facility in Eureka. Health officials say more cases are possible.

“A skilled nursing facility outbreak is not only a marker for widespread disease, but it also has potential to reflect back out into the community,” Humboldt County Deputy Health Officer Josh Ennis said in a release, noting the current rate of local community spread is unprecedented.

“We are one community. At this point in the pandemic, actions taken by one of us can affect all of us," he said. "We should all do our part to keep our loved ones healthy.”

To date, 1,231  Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 56 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 10 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. The county reports that 914 cases are no longer contagious and considered "recovered," while 307 cases remain active.

Nationwide, 15 million people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 — including 217,046 new cases yesterday — with 285,351 deaths, as of yesterday, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California, meanwhile, has seen 1.5 million cases confirmed with 20,463 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

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 Testing is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week.

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 [email protected] or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at [email protected] 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.
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Thadeus Greenson

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

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