Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Health Officials Concerned Over Humboldt's New COVID Ranking

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2020 at 6:31 PM

Local health officials are expressing concern after the state moved Humboldt County out of the “widespread” COVID-19 risk tier today for the first time in four weeks, in what was described as a “surprise decision” as cases here continue to surge.

With the move, Humboldt joined Mariposa and Alpine counties in the “substantial” risk zone, while only Sierra County ranks as “moderate” and the rest of the state remains in the purple or "widespread" zone.

A news release states Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman has a strong disagreement with how the state-level decision was reached and believes the designation could soon be reversed.

“In many ways, the data doesn’t support this decision,” he said in the release. “Our case rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and our contact investigation teams are tracking more cases, not fewer. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to have a conversation with the state before this decision was handed down.”

Humboldt County Public Health announced today it has confirmed 31 new COVID-19 cases. No new deaths or hospitalizations were reported. (Read more here.)

 “This is not a time to let down your guard,” Public Health Director Michele Stephens said in the release. “Our entire community, including our businesses, should continue to follow COVID prevention measures. Wear a mask. Maintain distance. Wash your hands. As more people are moving around our community, these measures become even more important.”

The county is urging local businesses to "move forward cautiously."

California's Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced the decision at a press conference earlier today,

Read the county release below:
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced that local COVID-19 data places Humboldt County in the “Red” or Substantial tier under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

The adjusted case rate of 12.1 and positivity rate of 4.0% do not meet the threshold for tier reassignment. However, the county met the state’s Health Equity Metric, which aims to reduce disparities by ensuring that no group within a county is disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.

Under the Red tier, Humboldt will be the only county in the state allowed to have indoor gatherings, movie theaters, fitness centers, places of worship and dining. Local businesses, particularly restaurants and cafes, are urged to move forward cautiously. If virus data worsens or intensive care unit capacity for the Northern California Region dips below 15%, the state would require some sectors to move outdoors or cease operating altogether.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman registered strong disagreement with CDPH’s methodology and said he believes that Red tier status could be reversed in coming days.

“In many ways, the data doesn’t support this decision,” he said. “Our case rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and our contact investigation teams are tracking more cases, not fewer. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to have a conversation with the state before this decision was handed down.”

Public Health Director Michele Stephens said that while some businesses will be able to reopen, this is not a victory as much as it is a cautionary tale. “This is not a time to let down your guard,” she said. “Our entire community, including our businesses, should continue to follow COVID prevention measures. Wear a mask. Maintain distance. Wash your hands. As more people are moving around our community, these measures become even more important.”

Some of the changes to sector operations under the Red tier include:
Bars, Breweries and Distilleries – Closed.
Wineries – Open outdoors only.
Family Entertainment Centers – Open outdoors only.
Retail – Open indoors at maximum 50% capacity.
Shopping Centers, Malls, Swap Meets - Open indoors at maximum 50% capacity; Close common areas; Reduce food court capacity to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Museums, Zoos and Aquariums – Open indoors at maximum 25% capacity.
Places of Worship – Open indoors at maximum 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Movie Theaters - Open indoors at maximum 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Hotels and Lodging – Close indoor pools, hot tubs and spa facilities; Fitness centers reduced to maximum 10% capacity. Gyms and Fitness Centers - Open indoors at maximum 10% capacity; Close indoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs. Restaurants - Open indoors at maximum 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.

The tier change will take effect one minute past midnight tonight.

For more information about the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” go to covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/. 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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About The Author

Kimberly Wear

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

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