Monday, December 21, 2020

Public Health Reports 113 New COVID-19 Infections, Another Death, as HumCo Confirms 1,500th Case

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 3:29 PM

While it took nearly 290 days for Humboldt County to record its first 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the next 500 have come over the span of just 18 days.

Humboldt County Public Health announced today that it has confirmed 113 new COVID-19 cases since Friday, setting a new single-day reporting record, while also confirming another COVID-related death.

Today's report comes after the county confirmed 156 new cases last week, offering a brief reprieve from a series of record-setting weekly case counts that peaked  at 217 the week prior. Today's count brings December's tally to 602, which already dwarfs November's then record total of 327, as local, state and national surges continue. The prior high for cases reported locally in a single day came Dec. 7, when the county reported 88 new cases confirmed over the span of a weekend.

The death reported today was of a resident in their 80s who resided at the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness skilled nursing facility, the site of an outbreak that saw five COVID-related deaths of residents last week.

In a press release today, the county reported that more than 27 percent of  local cases have been confirmed in residents 20 to 29 years of age, six of whom have been hospitalized at some point in their care.

"These hospitalizations we're seeing in younger groups are a reminder that this disease is not just affecting the very old and should further strengthen our resolve to each do our part to stop this pandemic," Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in the release.

While it's now been 10 months since Humboldt County confirmed its first COVID-19 case, 40 percent of local cases, 23 percent of hospitalizations and 44 percent of deaths have come over the past 21 days.

The "Northern California" region of the state — which includes Humboldt and 11 other counties — is still expected to fall under a regional stay-at-home order form the state in the coming days. The order will be triggered throughout the region when its commutative available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent, as has already occurred in the rest of the state.

As of this morning, the state reported the region had a combined 28.7 percent capacity — up from 21 percent reported Friday. If 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 and critical infrastructure will remain open. The order also temporarily prohibits all non-essential travel.

“Given our small number of ICU beds, if we filled roughly eight more ICU beds, our region would drop below 15 percent," Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in a press release last week. "Currently, we count on the ability to send patients out of the area if we run out of capacity, but with the rest of the state at very low or no capacity, that may not be an option.”

According to a letter last week from Del Norte Health Officer Warren Rehwaldt, the Rural Association of Northern California Health Officers is concerned the 15-percent threshold leaves little margin for error in the region and is putting together a joint statement urging Northern California residents to exercise extreme caution, likening the pandemic to a wildfire that is engulfing the entire region.

"Even as a region, we only have about 120 ICU beds, and 15 percent capacity leaves fewer than 20 beds; that's for people with heart attacks, strokes, trauma and COVID-19," the draft statement says. "We, the Rural Health Officers of Northern California, are gravely concerned that this cushion of beds could easily be overwhelmed, and most counties in our region are already struggling to find hospital beds for patients requiring a higher level of health care."

In Humboldt County, health care workers have already said there are emergency room patients who have been waiting for days for transfers out of the area for specialized care because hospitals throughout the state don't have available beds.

Today's Humboldt County cases were confirmed after 1,374 samples were processed with a test-positivity rate of 8.2 percent. The county also reported no new hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, the initial rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has begun, with the county having received 975 doses and healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents in the priority tier.

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 63.9 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents (up from 34) with a test positivity rate of 11.3 percent (up from 8.4) as of Dec. 15, Humboldt has a case rate 16.1 cases per 100,000 (up from 12.3) and a 4.7 percent positivity rate, also an increase.

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.

To date, 1,500 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 62 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 16 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Seven Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including one under intensive care.

Nationally, 17.8 million cases have been confirmed — including 197,616 yesterday — with 316,844 fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California, meanwhile, has seen 1.9 million cases confirmed — including 46,474 yesterday — and 22,593 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, the county's Joint Information Center is urging 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 by clicking here or calling (888) 634-1123.

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. Find the press release from Public Health copied below.

Dec. 21, 2020 - 113 New Cases, One Death Reported Since Friday
707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm Opens in new window
A sixteenth Humboldt County resident has died after testing positive for COVID-19, and an additional 113 cases of the virus have been reported since Friday. The total number of county residents who have tested positive now stands at 1,500.

The person who died was in their 80s and a patient at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center at the time of death, the seventh COVID-related death connected to the facility. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said Public Health extends its sympathies to all of the families who have lost loved ones all year and in this holiday season.

The daily and weekly datasets on the Humboldt County Data Dashboard have been updated. Some highlights include:

The county has seen more than an 11% increase in cases over the last week, and the case doubling time is now 33 days.
Humboldt County’s rate of confirmed cases is 1,119 per 100,000 residents, compared to the state rate of 4,693 and the U.S. rate of 5,420 per 100,000 residents.
The 20-29 age group represents the highest number of local cases at just over 27%. Six county residents in this age group have been hospitalized with COVID-19.
Dr. Hoffman said, “These hospitalizations we’re seeing in younger groups are a reminder that this disease is not just affecting the very old and should further strengthen our resolve to each do our part to stop this pandemic.”

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.


Local COVID-19 vaccine information: humboldtgov.org/vaccineinfo,
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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