Sunday, February 28, 2021

Humboldt's Vaccination Administration Rate Ranks in Middle of CA Counties

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2021 at 7:22 AM

A vial of the Modern COVID-19 vaccine and syringes on a table at a drive through distribution site at Cal Expo in Sacramento on Jan. 21, 2021. - PHOTO BY ANNE WERNIKOFF, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
  • A vial of the Modern COVID-19 vaccine and syringes on a table at a drive through distribution site at Cal Expo in Sacramento on Jan. 21, 2021.

With so many believing the little glass vials of COVID-19 vaccine are the ticket to a post-pandemic life, people are understandably anxious for their turn to get the shot and, in some cases, frustrated the process isn’t moving more quickly.

It’s also easy to watch news reports of large drive-through vaccination clinics in urban areas of the state and country and to wonder, is little Humboldt County being left behind? Is the local Public Health department getting proportionately as many doses as other areas and are those making their way into residents’ arms as quickly?

The county’s Joint Information Center included vaccination data into its COVID-19 dashboard this week, indicating that 26,789 doses have been administered locally, with 8.86 percent of the local population now partially vaccinated and 5.42 percent of locals having received both doses and designated as fully vaccinated. But those numbers need some context to really understand how Humboldt County is faring comparatively.

The state launched a vaccination dashboard this week, showing that it has delivered 10.1 million doses of vaccine to counties and that 8.2 million of those have been administered. The dashboard then breaks down the administered doses by county, so you can see how many shots have been given in every county from Imperial to Del Norte.

Unsurprisingly, the state’s most populace county — Los Angeles — leads the charge, having administered nearly 2 million vaccination doses, while its smallest county — Alpine — brings up the rear with 453 shots given. However, adjusting for population — or looking at doses administered per county resident — gives perhaps a clearer picture of how each county is faring in the race to vaccinate its residents.

By this metric, Humboldt County ranks just about in the dead middle of the state — 28th out of 58 counties — having administered the equivalent of .209 doses per resident. Little Mono County, meanwhile, has proportionately administered the most doses, having given the equivalent of .543 doses per each of its 14,310 residents, while Kings County appears to be having the most trouble getting shots in arms, having administered .083 doses per each of its 150,691 residents.

Mendocino County appears to be faring the best of Humboldt’s neighbors, having given .297 doses per resident, outpacing Trinity County’s .135 doses and Del Norte County’s .119, which is one of the state’s lowest.

While the state has repeatedly stressed equity as a guiding principle in vaccine allocation, there appears to be an economic divide. By the Journal's analyses, the state's five richest counties by per-capita income — Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco and Contra Costa — averaged .255 doses administered per resident, notably better than the statewide average of .208. Meanwhile, the state's poorest counties — Imperial, Madera, Tulare, Merced and Kings — averaged .129 shots given per resident, indicating their residents are getting vaccinated at half the rate of their wealthier counterparts.

Now, there’s a lot this metric doesn’t account for. All counties are at the mercy of the state, which is in turn at the mercy of the federal government, for how many doses they receive. The state has said it is allocating doses based on population but it appears other factors are also considered (as Mono County’s rate would suggest). And the metric only accounts for doses administered, so wouldn’t differentiate a county with an unused stockpile in the freezer and one putting those shots into arms as soon as they are delivered by the state.

There’s also reason to question the accuracy of the date itself. It lists Humboldt County as having administered 28,393 doses — 1,604 more than the county’s dashboard indicates have been given. And Del Norte Health Officer Warren Rehwaldt penned a lengthy letter to the Del Norte Triplicate this week detailing a host of frustrations with the vaccine rollout, including discrepancies between state and local data on the number of vaccinations on hand and administered.

But by far the biggest limiting factor in getting people vaccinated remains supply. Humboldt County Public Health announced last week that it has been allocated 4,740 vaccine doses for the coming week. While those doses will be split between first and second doses, they’re enough to fully vaccinate 2,370 people. Unless that allocation rate increases substantially, it would take most of the year to fully vaccinate the county’s adult population.

Currently, the county is vaccinating residents over the age of 70, healthcare workers, teachers and first responders, with food and agricultural workers next up. In a media availability last week, Health Officer Ian Hoffman made clear the speed of the process will depend on supply

“It will depend entirely on the amount of vaccine we have,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful approval of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine will add to allocations in the coming weeks. “We also know that the federal government has continued to promise to send more. It looks like that is actually starting to happen in the next few weeks, so when we have enough vaccine, we’ll open up to more tiers.”

Looming in the background of all this is the state’s announcement last month that it is revamping its vaccine delivery framework, reconsidering eligibility guidelines, creating a statewide registry and notification system and instituting sweeping changes that would put it in more direct control of vaccine distribution and administration across all 58 counties.

Specifically, the state intends to “simply eligibility” by pivoting away from the tiered system announced in December in favor of an age-based system and work with a “third party administrator” to build a statewide vaccine delivery network that will allocate doses directly to providers. But much about what this new system will look like and when it will roll out remains unclear.

What is clear, however, is that it seems unlikely to address the biggest impediment to mass vaccination in Humboldt County and everywhere else: available vaccine supply.
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Saturday, February 27, 2021

HSU Athletes Return to Play

Posted By on Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 6:02 AM

Humboldt State University - FILE
  • File
  • Humboldt State University
Humboldt State University athletes are returning to the fields and courts as the university, National Collegiate Athletic Association and Humboldt County Public have set "strict health and safety guidelines" for players to return.

In a media availability on Thursday, County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said that collegiate sports are governed by the NCAA, which sets standards similar to the California Department of Public Health for sports and outdoor recreation. With a COVID-19 protocol plan submitted to Public Health, HSU athletes are able to return.

According to the HSU release, the athletes started the return to participation process in the fall of 2020 and continue this spring following county Public Health, NCAA and university protocols, including consulting with Humboldt County Public Health officials, frequent COVID-19 testing (at least three times a week for those in competitions), small group practices, wearing face coverings on campus and on the road and travel-related quarantines.

Away games are planned, beginning with the men's basketball team and, according to the protocols, players must quarantine for 14 days when the team returns to the HSU campus.


On Twitter, HSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports Jane Teixeira praised the university and athletics department for work done "in front and behind the scenes so [student-athletes] can do something they love."

The release also states that an NCAA survey found that student athletes are reporting higher levels of mental exhaustion, anxiety and feelings of depression during the pandemic, with higher rates of distress among female, LGBTQ, and POC athletes.

“Although this isn’t an ideal situation for anybody, I know my team and others are grateful to get back to playing in any capacity,” said Macy Thomas, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee co-president and a volleyball player. “Some of our teams are getting travel games put on the schedule so that is a huge win for them. We have extensive safety protocols in place to ensure we can have another successful semester."

The move to in-person sports activities will pave the way for other campus functions.

In an email to the Journal, HSU spokesperson Grant Scott-Goforth said the school will be able to apply the "pod" group protocols that student-athletes are following to other campus and academic in-person activities like field-trips, in-person courses, events and more for the fall of 2021 semester.
"The ability to travel is integral to the hands-on learning experience that HSU prides itself on providing. Because of the frequency of testing of student athletes, we are able to work through what procedures and protocols we need to apply to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure while traveling with a group that is being closely watched," Scott-Goforth said. "This will allow us to walk away with a solid game plan that we will hopefully be able to implement across campus come fall 2021."

Read the full press release below.

Humboldt State University student-athletes are cautiously returning to training, practice, and exhibition games this spring.

Under strict health and safety guidelines from the NCAA, Humboldt County Public Health, and the University, this is the first opportunity since the COVID-19 pandemic began for student athletes to return to a bit of normalcy. The careful, deliberate approach to returning can have implications for the future of campus functions like field trips, in-person courses, events, and more.

An NCAA survey found that student-athletes, like other young adults, are reporting higher levels of mental exhaustion, anxiety, and feelings of depression during the pandemic. Higher rates of distress were reported among female, LGBTQ, and POC athletes.

Students, faculty, staff, and community have all made adjustments to slow the spread of the virus. All of the University, as a whole, worked diligently to have an opportunity for students to return to the classroom and activities,” says Jane Teixeira, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics & Recreational Sports. “A return to sports activities has had a real impact on student-athletes. You see it everyday when you watch these young people participate, you see it in their academic performance.

“Although this isn’t an ideal situation for anybody, I know my team and others are grateful to get back to playing in any capacity,” said Macy Thomas, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Co-President and Volleyball player. “Some of our teams are getting travel games put on the schedule so that is a huge win for them. We have extensive safety protocols in place to ensure we can have another successful semester. Go Jacks!”

Extensive safety protocols will be in place for the health of the student-athletes and coaching staff, as well as the opposing teams. Following best practices set by professional sports leagues and others, universities have been divided into regional “pods,” limiting the interaction between athletes from different schools.

The Lumberjacks started the return to participation process in Fall 2020 and continue this Spring following County Public Health, NCAA, and University protocols including testing on a regular and consistent basis. Protocols include

•Consultation with Humboldt County Public Health officials
•Frequent testing — teams in competition will be tested three times a week
•Small group practices
•Wearing face coverings on campus and on the road
•Travel-related quarantines

Each team will be on the road for multiple games over the course of two to three weeks. None of the games are part of regular conference competition, which is not occurring this year.

Athletes are being housed primarily in athlete-designated buildings, suites, and apartments. As with any campus resident, all students traveling out of Humboldt County are required to complete a 14-day quarantine before they return to their assigned room space. Athletic teams will be following the same process and upon their travel return, will be housed in separate facilities and/or apartments to quarantine for 14 days prior to them returning to their assigned room space.

“We are able to accomplish this largely on our ability to test frequently, these athletes are some of the most frequently tested individuals in the county,” says Cris Koczera, Emergency Coordinator and Interim Risk Management Director.

Athletics training, practice, and travel will help HSU return to other activities safely, when possible. The success of these teams will inform the continuation of field trips, additional face-to-face instruction, campus events, and other engagements. The University is hoping to be able to apply the protocols and guidelines that are successful to the broader campus in Fall 2021

Men’s Basketball will be the first to travel, currently scheduled to play games this weekend against Academy of Art. They will continue with Dominican, Fresno Pacific, and Simpson, with dates and times to be announced. Go to hsujacks.com for updated information.

Though no spectators will be allowed, games will be available to stream online for a small fee by the host institution, and Athletics will be sharing information about the games on its website and social media.

“I cannot express how the opportunity to return to a sense of ‘normalcy’ has had an exponential positive mental health effect for students and staff to return to the ‘physical lab’ of the field or court,” says Teixeira. “Our student-athletes love to play. They’re motivated to be exemplary and play safely during the pandemic. The continued support of Lumberjack Athletics, our student-athletes, HSU, and the amazing Humboldt County community is greatly appreciated. We are in this together and #WeRUnitedJacks.” More information on student-athletes and mental health can be read here.
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Friday, February 26, 2021

DA Clears EPD Officers in Fatal Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 4:32 PM

MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming has concluded the Eureka Police Department officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 51-year-old Eureka man last summer were justified in their actions.

John Karl Sieger, a military veteran, was reportedly intoxicated and suicidal when he raised a pistol at officers during a tense standoff at a home on the 2800 block of Lowell Street last year.

“Once Mr. Sieger refused their commands and pointed his gun at them, the officers reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury," the DA's Office release states.  "The District Attorney has notified Mr. Sieger’s family of her decision."

In the news release, the district attorney’s office outlines a detail account of how the events unfolded on the evening of July 23, 2020.

Earlier this month, a Use of Force/Shooting Review Board called by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson found officers performed properly at the scene.

The district attorney's release noted the situation "illustrates the difficult decisions that often must be made in cases involving persons dealing with mental health issues."

"The District Attorney appreciates that EPD’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution included quickly involving a mental health expert, and the rapid response of the mental health expert to a crisis situation," the release states.

Read the full release below:
DA Maggie Fleming has completed her review of the investigation regarding the Eureka Police Department (EPD) Officer involved shooting of 51-year-old John Karl Sieger on July 23, 2020. A Humboldt County Critical Incident Team, with members from EPD, the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, Arcata Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and Fortuna Police Department, conducted the investigation.  The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and the California Department of Justice – Bureau of Forensic Services provided additional investigative resources.

The investigation revealed that shortly after 5:00 pm on July 23rd, an out-of-county friend of Mr. Sieger called EPD to request a check on his welfare, because she had received texts indicating he was contemplating suicide.  Mr. Sieger’s messages to his friend initially included photos of bottles of alcohol; a subsequent message sent just before 4 pm included the same bottles with a hand gun.  After the friend sent a text telling Mr. Sieger she was worried and asking him to be safe, he replied that he “can’t” be safe and that he was done with his life.  She asked him by text to go find help and then asked where he was.  When he questioned why that mattered, she replied she was going to call EPD to come check on him.  She then called EPD at 5:16 pm. 

At 5:19 pm, EPD Officers Wilson and Huffman responded to a request for a check on Mr. Sieger’s welfare from EPD dispatch; Sergeant Omey and Officers Endsley and Christiansen followed shortly thereafter.  While traveling to Mr. Sieger’s home on Lowell Street in Eureka, officers requested information about Sieger from dispatch.  Once at the scene, officers sought information on who else might be in the home.  During this time, Mr. Sieger’s friend remained on the line with EPD and continued to share information she was receiving from Mr. Sieger.  Sergeant Omey attempted to reach Mr. Sieger by phone at 5:43 and did reach him when he tried again at 5:46, but Mr. Sieger quickly ended the call.  Officers on scene requested that dispatch notify neighbors to shelter in place.   At 5:49 pm, while maintaining positions outside Mr. Sieger’s house, EPD requested a mental health expert on scene. At about the same time, Mr. Sieger texted the friend: “You called EPD? wtf?” 

At approximately 6:20 pm, a mental health clinician and additional EPD officers arrived on scene and the search for information on Mr. Sieger via online databases and social media continued.  A few minutes after the clinician’s arrival, the friend received a text from Mr. Sieger: “If they see me I will shoot them.”  Using information uncovered about Mr. Sieger’s family, the mental health clinician contacted one of Mr. Sieger’s sons, who lived out of county and had not spoken to his dad that day.  Officers also contacted Mr. Sieger’s sister, who let them know he lived with his wife and younger son.  She also said she had received a text earlier that day indicating a personal matter  could be affecting Mr. Sieger’s mental state.  When his sister contacted Mr. Sieger to ask if he was OK, he responded, “I am not.”  At that point the sister said she would come to the home to assist.  EPD was able to contact Mr. Sieger’s wife and son inside the home and both exited the house to safety at 6:54 pm.  They both were aware that Mr. Sieger was in the backyard but were not aware that he was suicidal.  Mr. Sieger’s wife noted he had been drinking all day. 

At 6:56 pm the friend texted Mr. Sieger that she only called the police because she couldn’t come check on him.  He replied she did not need to ever think of him again and at 7:00 pm he texted her, “I respect cops and don’t force me to kill any of them.” The friend continued to send text messages pleading with Mr. Sieger to talk with those present and told him a crisis counselor was there.

Shortly before 7:30 pm, one of the officers contacted a next-door neighbor to ask if the view from an upstairs window looked down into Mr. Sieger’s backyard.  That neighbor allowed the officer to take a position in their house which provided a partial view of Mr. Sieger’s backyard. 

About 7:30 pm, after speaking with Mr. Sieger’s sister, the mental health clinician contacted Eureka Veteran’s Affairs and learned Mr. Sieger was a client, last seen for mental health issues in September 2019.   At 7:42 pm, the mental health clinician sent a text to Mr. Sieger introducing herself and letting him know she wanted to try to help.  He responded 2 minutes later: “There isn’t an out for me and I know this.  Please don’t corner me.  I won’t call anyone.”  At 7:46 pm the clinician let him know no one wanted to corner him but simply wanted to help and listen.  He replied at 7:48 pm, “I apologize for this but I am simply done.  My life was set as f——d years ago.”   The officer observing from the upstairs room could see Mr. Sieger holding something in his hand but could not identify the item.

Within 1 minute of that text, officers heard three loud pops which they recognized as gunfire.  Shortly after the clinician sent a text asking Mr. Sieger to explain the shots, he replied he wanted to prove he needed to be left alone and asked her to stop texting him.  The officer in the upstairs window could see Mr. Sieger at this point and confirmed his possession of a handgun.   

At 8:23 pm, Mr. Sieger looked over the top of the fence at EPD officers.  The officer in the upstairs window announced that Mr. Sieger was coming out and the back gate opened.  Mr. Sieger initially paused, but then stepped out into the alley.  The recording from an EPD body-worn device documented officers shouting, “show us your hands,” and “gun!”  In response to the officers’ commands, Mr. Sieger yelled back, “No, f—- you.”  Immediately following the verbal exchange between officers and Mr. Sieger, video from an EPD body-worn camera showed Mr. Sieger raising his right hand, pointing a handgun directly at the officers.

In response to Mr. Sieger pointing his handgun at the officers, Officers Endsley, Bishop, Wilson, and Sgt. Omey fired their weapons at Mr. Sieger.  Mr. Sieger was struck by gunfire and fell to the ground.  Officers immediately approached Mr. Sieger and began lifesaving efforts including CPR.  Medical personnel present and Humboldt Bay Fire personnel continued with the lifesaving efforts, and transported Mr. Sieger to St. Joseph Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:47 pm. 

Officers recovered a .40 caliber Glock pistol loaded with 7 rounds of ammunition where Mr. Sieger fell to the ground.  The serial number from the Glock matched the serial number of the firearm in the photograph Mr. Sieger sent to his friend earlier in the day.  Officers also recovered three .40 caliber shell casings in Mr. Sieger’s backyard, consistent with the report of three shots heard by law enforcement. 

An autopsy by Dr. Super on July 28 revealed wound paths consistent with four officers firing from separate locations.

The California Penal Code addresses justifiable homicide at Section 196:

Homicide is justifiable when committed by peace officers and those acting by their command in their aid and assistance, under either of the following circumstances:

(a)In obedience to any judgment of a competent court.

(b)When the homicide results from a peace officer’s use of force that is in compliance with Section 835a.

The California State Legislature made significant additions to Section 835a in 2019 (Assembly Bill 392).  It now states:

Section 835a. Reasonable force to effect arrest; Resistance

(a)The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1)That the authority to use physical force, conferred on peace officers by this section, is a serious responsibility that shall be exercised judiciously and with respect for human rights and dignity and for the sanctity of every human life. The Legislature further finds and declares that every person has a right to be free from excessive use of force by officers acting under color of law.

(2)As set forth below, it is the intent of the Legislature that peace officers use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life. In determining whether deadly force is necessary, officers shall evaluate each situation in light of the particular circumstances of each case, and shall use other available resources and techniques if reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer.

(3)That the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated carefully and thoroughly, in a manner that reflects the gravity of that authority and the serious consequences of the use of force by peace officers, in order to ensure that officers use force consistent with law and agency policies.

(4)That the decision by a peace officer to use force shall be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable officer in the same situation, based on the totality of the circumstances known to or  perceived by the officer at the time, rather than with the benefit of hindsight, and that the totality of the circumstances shall account for occasions when officers may be forced to make quick judgments about using force.

(5)That individuals with physical, mental health, developmental, or intellectual disabilities are significantly more likely to experience greater levels of physical force during police interactions, as their disability may affect their ability to understand or comply with commands from peace officers. It is estimated that individuals with disabilities are involved in between one-third and one-half of all fatal encounters with law enforcement.

(b)Any peace officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use objectively reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance.

(c)(1)Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary for either of the following reasons:

(A)To defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.

(B)To apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended. Where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.

(2)A peace officer shall not use deadly force against a person based on the danger that person poses to themselves, if an objectively reasonable officer would believe the person does not pose an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or to another person.

(d)A peace officer who makes or attempts to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from their efforts by reason of the resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested. A peace officer shall not be deemed an aggressor or lose the right to self-defense by the use of objectively reasonable force in compliance with subdivisions (b) and (c) to effect the arrest or to prevent escape or to overcome resistance. For the purposes of this subdivision, “retreat” does not mean tactical repositioning or other de-escalation tactics.

(e)For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1)“Deadly force” means any use of force that creates a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury, including, but not limited to, the discharge of a firearm.

(2)A threat of death or serious bodily injury is “imminent” when, based on the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in the same situation would believe that a person has the present ability, opportunity, and apparent intent to immediately cause death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. An imminent harm is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but is one that, from appearances, must be instantly confronted and addressed.

(3)“Totality of the circumstances” means all facts known to the peace officer at the time, including the conduct of the officer and the subject leading up to the use of deadly force.

The District Attorney has concluded the shooting was legally justified, because the officers’ actions complied with California Penal Code Section 835a.  Once Mr. Sieger refused their commands and pointed his gun at them, the officers reasonably believed they were in imminent danger of being killed or suffering great bodily injury. The District Attorney has notified Mr. Sieger’s family of her decision.

This case illustrates the difficult decisions that often must be made in cases involving persons dealing with mental health issues.  When law enforcement can reasonably assume that others are not in danger, they can exercise the option to disengage from a person struggling with mental health issues.  The investigation of this case revealed that EPD personnel were considering that option – until Mr. Sieger discharged his firearm in the backyard.  At that point, given Mr. Sieger's mental state and proximity to neighbors, the safety of others could not be assured and EPD remained on scene, while continuously attempting to peacefully resolve the situation.  The District Attorney appreciates that EPD’s efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution included quickly involving a mental health expert, and the rapid response of the mental health expert to a crisis situation. 
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Humboldt Confirms 20 New COVID-19 Cases, Youth Sports Cleared to Resume

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 1:39 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 20 new COVID-19 cases, making 114 for the week.

The week's tally is an uptick from last week's 85 cases but still a far cry from the record 269 confirmed in the first week of January. Today's cases were confirmed after labs processed 357 samples with a test-positivity rate of 5.6 percent.

According to the county's dashboard, eight local residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Local available intensive care unit capacity, meanwhile, has risen to 21.4 percent.

The county's Joint Information Center also today reported that the state's updated guidance for youth and recreational adult sports take effect today, allowing the resumption of competitions in high- and low-contact sports in county's with case rates lower than an average of 14 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. (See more on the guidance in the county's press release below.)

Public Health also announced yesterday that Humboldt County has been allocated 4,740 additional COVID-19 vaccination doses for next week. To date, the county has administered 26,789 vaccine doses, with 7,374 local residents having been fully vaccinated and another 12,041 having received the first of the required two doses.

The county issued a press release this morning advising that while vaccine side effects are more frequently seen after individuals receive their second dose, the vaccines are safe and effective.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that safety monitoring for the two vaccines approved for emergency use has been 'the most intense and comprehensive in U.S. history,'" the press release states.

While mild side effects are relatively common, adverse reactions are not.

“It is not uncommon for people to experience a sore arm and swelling where the shot was given, or symptoms such as fever, body aches and fatigue as part of the process of building immunity,” said Humboldt County Public Health Nurse Have Phillips in the release. “This is especially true after the second dose, when the body's immune response is stronger. Severe reactions to the vaccine, requiring medical care, are rare and usually happen within the first 24 hours after getting the shot.”

When the state of California updated its COVID risk tier assignments Tuesday, it moved Humboldt County into the state's red tier for the first time since January, as local officials had predicted.

The new designation means some businesses and organizations can reopen indoor operations, including restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship, at reduced capacity.

The state data shows the county with a seven-day average test-positive rate of 2.7 percent and a daily case rate of 6.3 per 100,000, compared to California overall, which has a 4.8 positivity rate and 15.2 cases per 100,000.

Last Thursday, the county announced it had confirmed the presence of a never-before-seen COVID-19 variation in 16 cases associated with the catastrophic outbreak at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness. Read more about that here.

As is the case throughout the state and the nation, vaccination efforts continue to move slowly forward locally, with residents over the age of 70, healthcare workers, teachers and first responders currently eligible to receive their shots. The clinics remain by invitation only to control exposure risks and ensure vaccinations are administered according to the county's priority tiers, with residents urged to complete the county's vaccination interest form to be notified when they are eligible.

Continue reading »

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Redwood Memorial Birth Center in Fortuna to Close

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 11:40 AM

Nearly a decade after the idea was last proposed, Providence (formerly St. Joseph Health System) today announced the birthing center at Redwood Memorial Hospital is set to close July 1, with deliveries being transitioned over to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

In a news release, the health care system cited declining birth levels across the county, but especially in the Eel River region, and a loss of “women’s services physicians.”

"Operationally, it’s been very challenging to support both programs. The decision to transition services was not taken lightly and we know this is nobody’s preference,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, chief executive for Providence in Humboldt County, said in a release. “However, this is a trend that is happening across the country in rural communities. By focusing services at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, we will be able to recruit additional physicians, enhance the hospital as a robust regional medical center, build upon an award-winning program and develop a service line which will be recognized as a center of excellence, while supporting the important role of Redwood Memorial Hospital as a Critical Access Hospital.”

A similar move proposed back in 2013 was met with an outcry from the southern portions of the county, with concerns raised about potentially harmful outcome for mothers and babies in emergency situations due to the long travel those who live in the outer reaches of the county would have to make to Eureka.

At the time, more than1,500 people signed a petition calling for the maternity center and OB services to remain at Redwood Memorial.

Providence states no layoffs are anticipated with the move and pointed to the availability of virtual pre-natal care options in a “post-COVID world.”

“Consolidating programs will further ensure top-tier obstetric and gynecological providers will be on hand to support moms and babies,” the release states.

Read the full release below:


Eureka, CA. – February 26, 2021) – As a result of declining birth volumes across Humboldt County, especially in the Eel River Valley, and the county-wide loss of women’s services physicians, Redwood Memorial Hospital (RMH) plans to close its obstetrics program on July 1, 2021. Childbirth services will be transitioned to the obstetrics program at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka (SJE), incorporating the staff and the legacy of both programs to create a single, high-quality childbirth center, supported by a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

"Operationally, it’s been very challenging to support both programs. The decision to transition services was not taken lightly and we know this is nobody’s preference,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, M.D. chief executive for Providence in Humboldt County. “However, this is a trend that is happening across the country in rural communities. By focusing services at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, we will be able to recruit additional physicians, enhance the hospital as a robust regional medical center, build upon an award-winning program and develop a service line which will be recognized as a center of excellence, while supporting the important role of Redwood Memorial Hospital as a Critical Access Hospital.”

In 2013, the question of the sustainability of obstetrics care at RMH was evaluated and the community partnered with St. Joseph Health (now Providence) to recruit a physician with training in obstetrics and gynecology. Despite that effort and the addition of family physicians with obstetric privileges to Open Door Community Health Centers, the community once again faces challenges with the loss of women’s services physicians and support staff across Humboldt County and the gradual decline of deliveries. Consolidation will further address provider shortage in the county and allow resources to be better allocated at RMH.

Additionally, in a post-COVID world, some pre-natal care can now be delivered closer to home by virtual means. Consolidating programs will further ensure top-tier obstetric and gynecological providers will be on hand to support moms and babies.

RMH caregivers affected by the transition will be offered comparable positions within the obstetrics program at SJE. No layoffs are anticipated related to the consolidation.

“Redwood Memorial Hospital will continue to be a special place and a vital component of Providence’s care delivery network in Humboldt County,” said Dennis Leonardi, Ferndale resident and Chairman of the Community Board for Providence in Humboldt County. “The new acute inpatient rehab unit project at Redwood is just one example of the commitment local hospital leadership has made and will continue to make in the Eel River Valley.”

Plans have been developed to renovate and remodel the existing obstetrics unit at SJE. The redesigned unit will promote a nurturing environment with the latest technologies which will provide an enhanced birth experience for mothers and their babies. Construction will be completed this summer.

“Consistent with our Mission, our goal will always be to focus on the dignity of our patients and the quality and scope of services the Humboldt County community needs, while remaining good stewards of our resources,” said Luskin-Hawk, MD.

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

County Reports 10 new COVID-19 Cases, Slated to Receive Nearly 5K Vaccine Doses Next Week

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 4:51 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 10 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the county's cumulative tally to 3,160.

The results were released after labs processed 297 samples with a test-positivity rate of 3.4 percent.

According to the county's dashboard, eight local residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Local available intensive care unit capacity, meanwhile, has risen to 21.4 percent.

Public Health also announced today that Humboldt County has been allocated 4,740 additional COVID-19 vaccination doses for next week. To date, the county has administered 26,789 vaccine doses, with 7,374 local residents having been fully vaccinated and another 12,041 having received the first of the required two doses.

When the state of California updated its COVID risk tier assignments Tuesday, it moved Humboldt County into the state's red tier for the first time since January, as local officials had predicted.

The new designation means some businesses and organizations can reopen indoor operations, including restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship, at reduced capacity.

The state data shows the county with a seven-day average test-positive rate of 2.7 percent and a daily case rate of 6.3 per 100,000, compared to California overall, which has a 4.8 positivity rate and 15.2 cases per 100,000.
The county's Joint Information Center also reported Friday that the state Department of Public Health has released updates guidelines for youth and adult recreational sports, which allow some to resume with safety measures in place in counties with case relates below an average of 14 new cases confirmed daily per 100,000 residents. The measures will take effect next Friday and the county will release additional information before then, according to the release.

Last Thursday, the county announced it had confirmed the presence of a never-before-seen COVID-19 variation in 16 cases associated with the catastrophic outbreak at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness. Read more about that here.

Vaccination efforts, meanwhile, continue to move slowly forward, with residents over the age of 70, healthcare workers, teachers and first responders currently eligible to receive their shots. The clinics remain by invitation only and residents are urged to complete the county's vaccination interest form to be notified when they are eligible.


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Godwit Days Takes Flight Again, Virtually

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 11:46 AM

Flying Godwits artwork by Gary Bloomfield
  • Flying Godwits artwork by Gary Bloomfield
After taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Godwit Days Festival takes flight again — online! This year's festival, like so many beloved local events, has adapted itself for the times. Instead of taking to the marshes, mudflats and coasts, participants and guides will gather 'round their individual devices April 16 through 18 for live-streamed sessions like, The Big Hour: Facebook Live at the Arcata Marsh with Rob Fowler of Fowlerope Birding Tours & wildlife artist Gary Bloomfield, Zoom events like Humboldt Birding: Past, Present & Future, A Birds & Beers Social Zoom, as well as prerecorded lectures, sessions and more.  The winner of Humboldt County’s Bird of the Year for 2020, as well as winners in the 18th annual student bird art contest will also be announced online.

In a press release, Godwit Days Board chair Alex Stillman said, “We wanted to keep Godwit Days in the public eye after we had to cancel the April 2020 event, but we needed to do it safely and without spending much money; thus, we came up with a virtual festival. I hope people will enjoy the content and donate accordingly, so that we can return in 2022 with a full-blown, in-person festival.”

While the event is free, donations are gratefully accepted as they are what keeps the event alive and running year after year.

Keep abreast of updates and information on the Godwit Days Facebook page and look for the complete schedule and instruction for how to view the sessions, posted soon at www.godwitdays.org.

For more, read the press release below.

Godwit Days Festival Returns, Goes Virtual

You may be among the people who’ve been wondering what is happening with Godwit Days in 2021. Will it again be postponed due to Covid-19?

Well, the suspense is over! The Godwit Days Spring Migration Birding Festival will be offering a free, virtual, three-day program April 16 through 18. It will highlight some favorite species and the spots where they occur.

Most sessions will be 60 to 90 minutes in length, with breaks in between. Some will be live streamed (and also recorded for future viewing) and others will be pre-recorded and posted online.

Participants will be asked to make donations to keep the festival going, both this year and beyond. (In 2020, the festival had to cancel a mere 6 weeks before the event, after money had been spent that couldn’t be recouped.)

The complete program schedule will be posted soon at www.godwitdays.org, as will instructions on how to access the sessions. Among the sessions being planned:

· A Bird in the Hand: Banding at the Humboldt Bay Bird Observatory featuring HBBO staff and/or volunteers

· Curiosities & Oddities in the Humboldt State Wildlife Museum with Curator Tamar Danufsky

· Humboldt Birding: Past, Present & Future, A Birds & Beers Social Zoom

· Surveying Shorebirds of Humboldt Bay: Plenary Lecture by HSU wildlife professor Dr. Mark Colwell

· “The Big Hour”: Facebook Live at the Arcata Marsh with Rob Fowler of Fowlerope Birding Tours & wildlife artist Gary Bloomfield

· Bird Songs & Calls: An Identification Workshop with birder/biologist David Juliano

· Shorebird Fly-off: Facebook Live at the Arcata Marsh with Dr. Mark Colwell & Rob Fowler

· The Language of Birds: Keynote Lecture by Nathan Pieplow, blogger on recording, identifying, and interpreting bird sounds (www.earbirding.com)

· Seeking Amphibians in Del Norte County with California State Parks biologist Tony Kurz

· Tips & Techniques for Sketching Birds by Gary Bloomfield

· Spotted Owl Search with Green Diamond Resource Company staff, Rob Fowler & Gary Bloomfield

· A Tribute to Dr. Stanley Harris: Memories of HSU Ornithology Prof “Doc” Harris

Also to be posted on line during the festival: announcement of the winner of Humboldt County’s Bird of the Year for 2020, as well as winners in the 18th annual student bird art contest, cosponsored by Friends of the Arcata Marsh and Redwood Region Audubon Society (RRAS), and in the 16th annual student nature writing contest, sponsored by RRAS.

“We wanted to keep Godwit Days in the public eye after we had to cancel the April 2020 event,” says Board chair Alex Stillman. “But we needed to do it safely and without spending much money; thus, we came up with a virtual festival. I hope people will enjoy the content and donate accordingly, so that we can return in 2022 with a full-blown, in-person festival.”

Follow us on Facebook or visit www.godwitdays.org for festival updates or to make a tax-deductible contribution at any time.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

County Confirms 15 New COVID Cases, Adds Vaccination Info to Dashboard

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 4:13 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 15 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the county's cumulative tally to 3,151.

The results were released after labs processed 359 samples with a test-positivity rate of 4.2 percent.

On its dashboard, the county is now including local vaccination data, indicating that 26,789 doses have been administered to date, with 8.86 percent of the population having received a first dose and 5.42 percent having received both vaccination doses. The dashboard also breaks down local vaccinations demographically, indicating that 18.5 percent of local residents age 75 and older have been fully vaccinated, while 42 percent in that age group have received a first dose.

According to the county's dashboard, nine local residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Local available intensive care unit capacity, meanwhile, has dipped to 14.3 percent.

When the state of California updated its COVID risk tier assignments yesterday, it moved Humboldt County into the state's red tier for the first time since January, as local officials had predicted.

The new designation means some businesses and organizations can reopen indoor operations, including restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and places of worship, at reduced capacity.

The state data shows the county with a seven-day average test-positive rate of 2.7 percent and a daily case rate of 6.3 per 100,000, compared to California overall, which has a 4.8 positivity rate and 15.2 cases per 100,000.

County Health Officer Ian Hoffman told the board of supervisors yesterday that he was optimistic about where the county was headed and that the move to the red tier “is likely to stick.”

“We feel this is a much better position than we were in January when we made it into the red tier,” he said, noting that at the time case counts were very high overall and county just made it into the less restrictive tier by the smallest of margins. Now, Hoffman said, those data sets are trending in a positive direction although hospitalizations rates are high overall, which may be because Humboldt is “still seeing the tail end of the surge.”

The county's Joint Information Center also reported Friday that the state Department of Public Health has released updates guidelines for youth and adult recreational sports, which allow some to resume with safety measures in place in counties with case relates below an average of 14 new cases confirmed daily per 100,000 residents. The measures will take effect next Friday and the county will release additional information before then, according to the release.

Last Thursday, the county announced it had confirmed the presence of a never-before-seen COVID-19 variation in 16 cases associated with the catastrophic outbreak at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness. Read more about that here.

Vaccination efforts, meanwhile, continue to move slowly forward, with residents over the age of 70, healthcare workers, teachers and first responders currently eligible to receive their shots. In a press release yesterday, the Joint Information Center reported that the county is planning three large vaccination clinics this week to administer 2,500 doses — including 1,000 first doses and 1,500 second doses.

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Homeowners Hit By Wildfires Can Apply for Property Tax Deferment

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 3:07 PM

California homeowners in 31 counties, including Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino and Trinity,  who were affected by last year’s wildfires have more time to apply for the state’s Property Tax Postponement program.

To apply for the 2020-2021 program, the deadline is in June, according to a release from State Controller Betty T. Yee’s office.

“Administered by the State Controller’s Office, PTP allows homeowners who are seniors, are blind, or have a disability and who meet income, equity, and other requirements to delay payment of property taxes on their primary residence,” a release from the controller’s office states.

Hundreds lost their homes in 2020 amid the worst fire season in California history, with three major fires sweeping through the region — the Slater-Devil Fire, the Red Salmon Fire and the August Complex, the largest in California's history at more than 1 million acres — at one point creating an eerie orange sky and blanketing many areas in chocking smoke for weeks before finally being put out by fall rains.

According to the state, applications for the 2021-2022 tax year will be available in September. Applications and program details can be found online or by calling (800) 952-5661.

Read the full release from earlier this week below:

SACRAMENTO—State Controller Betty T. Yee today reminded California homeowners recently affected by wildfires that they have more time to apply for the Property Tax Postponement (PTP) program.

Administered by the State Controller’s Office, PTP allows homeowners who are seniors, are blind, or have a disability and who meet income, equity, and other requirements to delay payment of property taxes on their primary residence.

Residents of these 31 counties in governor-declared disaster areas now have a deadline of June 1 to apply for 2020-21 PTP: Butte, Del Norte, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Siskyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.

In the 2019-20 tax year, California homeowners postponed more than $4 million in residential property taxes through PTP. As of February 10, more than $3.6 million had been paid out for tax year 2020-21.

Funding for the program is limited, and applications are processed in the order they are received. Participants must reapply each year and demonstrate they continue to meet eligibility requirements. The interest rate for all taxes postponed under PTP this tax year is five percent. A lien is placed on the real property, or a security agreement filed for a manufactured home, until the deferred taxes are repaid. Applications for the 2021-22 tax year will be available in September. Applications and program details can be found online  or by calling (800) 952-5661.
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No Touching: It's Seal Pupping Season

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 6:35 AM

Seal pups are cute, but don't touch. They are just waiting for mom to return. - FILE
  • File
  • Seal pups are cute, but don't touch. They are just waiting for mom to return.
The Northcoast Marine Mammal Center, which rescues animals along the coastlines of Humboldt and Del Norte counties, is reminding folks that it's seal pupping season.

That means encounters with a young one alone on the beach are possible — most likely because the mother is out foraging for food in the water — and it’s important to keep a distance and keep dogs away so she will return to her pup. And absolutely no touching.

If worried, the center has a stranding line that can be reached at (707) 951-4722 or click the “call now” feature on the nonprofit's Facebook page, which can be found here.

The center had its first rescue of the year this week — a harbor seal pup dubbed “Kai” that was found on Centerville Beach in McKinleyville and taken in being under observation by the center.

“He was put on watch for a couple of days on Centerville Beach in Humboldt County before determining that his mother was not returning,” a Facebook post states. “We brought him to the hospital here in Crescent City (on Monday) where he had a check-up with the veterinarian. He is just a couple days old and is doing well so far, with his only problem being a terrible case of the hiccups when he arrived.”

The center notes that donations play an important role in its efforts to rescue marine mammals in need. More information on how to help is also available on the center’s Facebook page.

Meet Kai! The first Harbor Seal pup of our busy season. He was put on watch for a couple of days on Centerville Beach...

Posted by Northcoast Marine Mammal Center on Tuesday, February 23, 2021
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