Tuesday, December 22, 2020

COVID Cases Rise as Vaccinations Continue

Posted By on Tue, Dec 22, 2020 at 4:49 PM

Public Health announced today that 12 new COVID cases were confirmed but reported no additional hospitalizations or deaths, making 125 positive tests so far this week.

While it took nearly 290 days for Humboldt County to record its first 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the next 500 arrived over the span of just 18 days. Last week saw 156 cases, down a notch from the previous week's record 217, but the month's total stands at 614. That far outpaces November's previous record total of 327 as local, state and national surges continue.

Meanwhile, the county reports all 975 of the vaccine's initial doses, and then some, will be given out by the end of today. (Read more here.)

According to the news release, the California Department of Public Health has indicated Humboldt County could receive weekly shipments of approximately 1,600 vaccine doses for the next few weeks, although that is subject to change.

“We have been coordinating with local hospitals and other top tier health facilities for months," County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in the release. "As we receive our allotments of the vaccines, we are allocating them as fast as they are coming in.”

Today, Hoffman also issued an update to the Mass Quarantine Order, which reduces the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to a minimum of 10 days for people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but have not tested positive.

“We realize that a 14-day quarantine can be a hardship and a barrier to adherence,” Hoffman said in a release. “Public Health still strongly encourages 14 days as the safest choice to reduce spread of COVID-19.”

In a Monday press release, the county noted 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," Hoffman said.

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 29.5 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.

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 226 samples were processed.

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 80.7 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents (up from 63.9) with a test positivity rate of 13.3 percent (up from 11.3) as of today, Humboldt has a case rate 18.5 cases per 100,000 (up from 16.1) and a 4.9 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, 1,512 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.

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.

A total of 1,512 Humboldt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, after 12 additional cases were reported today. 

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman today issued an update to the Mass Quarantine Order, which reduced the duration of mandatory quarantine from 14 days to a minimum of 10 days for people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 but have not tested positive. This follows similar moves by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health. 

“We realize that a 14-day quarantine can be a hardship and a barrier to adherence,” Dr. Hoffman said. “Public Health still strongly encourages 14 days as the safest choice to reduce spread of COVID-19.” 

While the duration for mandatory quarantine has changed, isolation duration remains the same. 

To read the order or for more information about quarantine and isolation, go to humboldtgov.org/blanketorders.  

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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