Tuesday, January 5, 2021

December Sees Nearly Half of Humboldt's COVID Case Total

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2021 at 1:57 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 18 new COVID-19 cases and an additional death today. The individual who died was in their 80s and had tested positive.

Under state numbers released today, the region qualifies for California's most restrictive COVID risk tier but continues its stay in the state's red or "substantial" ranking, although local health officials say that is very likely to change next week.

During a report to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors this morning, Health Officer Ian Hoffman noted that the state's data trails behind the real-time numbers local officials are seeing.

“Our data is worsening, not improving,” Hoffman said in a news release. “I would urge every member of our community to take precautions as if we’re in the purple tier because there is a lot of virus circulating in our community right now. Local businesses should also be cautious planning for the next few weeks because we anticipate a move back to purple next week.”

As one of only four counties not currently in the purple or "widespread" tier, and since the region is not yet under the state's shelter-in-place order like more than 98 percent of California's residents, some Humboldt businesses and organizations have been allowed to resume limited indoor operations, including restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship.

But that will change when the county moves back up to the more restrictive ranking. So far this month, 165 cases have been recorded on the heels of a steady stream of cases confirmed last week, including 53 on Dec. 30, 31 on Dec. 29 and 61 on Dec. 28.

At 932, December's numbers accounted for nearly half of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Humboldt County, according to the Joint Information Center.
click to enlarge covid_numbers.png

As of this morning, the state reported the region had a combined 29.8 percent capacity. 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, healthcare 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 404 samples were processed.

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 California has a case rate of 74.1 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents (down from 93.1) with a test positivity rate of 15 percent in data released today, Humboldt has a case rate of 16.3 cases per 100,000 (up from 14 last week) and a 5.2 percent positivity rate, also an increase.

To date, 1,928 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 68 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 24 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Seven Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including two under intensive care.

Nationally, more than 19.8 million people have been confirmed to have the virus, including 230,337 cases confirmed today, with 341,199 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Statewide, 2.4 million people have been confirmed to have the disease, with 27,003 COVID-related fatalities.

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 [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 assessing risk factors for contracting the illness, which can be found 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 Humboldt County resident in their 80s who tested positive for COVID-19 has died. An additional 18 cases of the virus were reported today, bringing to 1,928 the total number of county residents who have tested positive. The adjusted case rate of 16.3 and positivity rate of 5.2% qualify the county for the “Purple” or Widespread tier under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”

However, the county remains in the “Red” or Substantial tier because the state requires two weeks in a tier before reassignment. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said virus data indicates that as of today the county will stay in the red tier for the next week, but the state may make a change at any time.

“Our data is worsening, not improving,” Dr. Hoffman said. “I would urge every member of our community to take precautions as if we’re in the purple tier because there is a lot of virus circulating in our community right now. Local businesses should also be cautious planning for the next few weeks because we anticipate a move back to purple next week.”

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 the Joint Information Center at [email protected] or 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 Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the number of cases reported this week.
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Kimberly Wear

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

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