Thursday, January 7, 2021

Humboldt Teeters on Cusp of 2K COVID Cases

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2021 at 4:28 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 42 new COVID-19 cases today,  bringing the countywide total to 1,998 after one case was removed from the total due to a determination the individual was from outside the county.

Four additional hospitalizations were also reported.

With vaccinations ongoing, a news release from Humboldt's Joint Information Center notes that the California Department of Public Health’s “California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan" was posted to the county website.

“We want the community to see clearly the vaccine priorities that have been set by the state and how we’re moving through the tiers here in Humboldt County,” Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in the release. 

According to the release, the county is proceeding through the Phase 1A tiers, which will involved about 10,000 providers locally, including "staff at acute care facilities and dialysis centers, paramedics and EMTs and staff at primary care clinics and laboratories, dentists and community health outreach workers."

“We have a clear plan that we are working through and will continue to make information available as quickly as we can,” Hoffman said.

Earlier this week, the state issued a health order that halted all elected surgeries to make more room for intensive care unit capacity in regions where hospital ICU capacity is at 0 percent. Those hospitals also now have the ability to transfer patients in and out of other regions, including the Northern California region, where ICU capacity is at 25.4 percent.

The order doesn't currently affect Humboldt County.

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 stay home 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, which is expected to happen next week. So far this month, 194 cases have been recorded on the heels of a steady stream of cases confirmed last week.

The state’s stay home order, which divides California into five regions, is 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 Northern California region had a combined 25.4 percent capacity. If implemented locally, the stay home 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 478 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, 1,998 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 73 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 23 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Eight Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including three 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 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.

Forty-two additional cases of COVID-19 were reported today. A case reported earlier this week was determined to be from out of the county, so the total number of Humboldt County residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 1,998.

In vaccine-related news, today the California Department of Public Health’s “California’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan” was posted to Humboldt County’s website at humboldtgov.org/2872/Vaccine-Info. It contains easy-to-understand information about state and local vaccine planning. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said, “We want the community to see clearly the vaccine priorities that have been set by the state and how we’re moving through the tiers here in Humboldt County.” Currently, Humboldt County is inviting providers in Phase 1A-tier 1 and 2 to vaccination clinics, and is expected to extend invites to tier 3 by the end of this week. Phase 1A is estimated to involve approximately 10,000 people locally and includes but is not limited to staff at acute care facilities and dialysis centers, paramedics and EMTs and staff at primary care clinics and laboratories, dentists and community health outreach workers.

“We have a clear plan that we are working through and will continue to make information available as quickly as we can,” Dr. Hoffman said.

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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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