Monday, March 15, 2021

Public Health Confirms 21 New COVID-19 Cases, One New Hospitalization

Posted By on Mon, Mar 15, 2021 at 4:05 PM

Humboldt County Public Health has confirmed 21 new COVID-19 cases since Friday, the county reported today. One new hospitalization was also reported.

Today's cases were reported after laboratories processed 443 samples with a test-positivity rate of 4.7 percent, bringing the county's case count to 3,370.

Additionally, the county reported that it will partner with local health care providers to hold two large-scale vaccination clinics this week and expects to administer 1,300 doses of vaccine — including more than 600 second doses. The clinics remain by appointment only and residents are urged to fill out a vaccine interest form so they can be notified when they are eligible.

The California Department of Public Health announced Friday that a benchmark of distributing some 2 million vaccine doses in underserved areas of the state has been met and the threshold for when counties are moved into the most restrictive COVID-19 risk tier has been revised.

According to the county's release, public health officials have "expressed cautious optimism" about Humboldt's ability to not only remain in the red tier but even find its way back down the COVID-19 risk ladder to reach the orange or yellow levels if residents continue to practice safety measures, get tested and sign up to be vaccinated, when it's their turn.

“Each day we make progress in this pandemic, and we are hopeful that we can build on that effort and get our community and our economy back on track,"  Public Health Director Michelle Stephens said in Friday's press release. "Please continue to wear a face covering, wash your hands regularly, avoid large gatherings and maintain distance.”

Breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals were allowed to reopen Saturday for outdoor service in the red, or substantial risk, and purple, or widespread risk, tiers, under new state rules.

"The updated state guidelines require advance reservations, limit patrons to 90 minutes and  require an end to on-site consumption at 8 p.m," the county's release states. "Businesses in this sector that serve meals should continue to follow restaurants guidance. Bars remain closed in the red tier. "

When the state of California updated its COVID-19 risk tiers last week, Humboldt County remained in the red "substantial" tier, meaning restaurants, movie theaters, churches and other organizations are allowed to continue limited indoor operations.

As of Wednesday, the county will no longer include current hospitalization numbers or available local intensive care unit capacity in its dashboard, saying it would be added back should the county see another surge in hospitalizations.

The state, meanwhile, has announced that beginning April 1 outdoor sports events and live performances will be cleared to reopen with fans and spectators, so long as facial coverings are worn at all times, venues follow tier-based capacity restrictions and provide reserved, assigned seating. (Read more here.)

Other changes are vaccination distribution and re-opening strategies to prioritize making sure residents of socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of the state have access to vaccines. Read more about the move and how it may benefit Humboldt here.

Data shows the county with a seven-day average test-positivity rate of 2.3 percent and a daily case rate of 6.6 per 100,000, both of which dipped slightly from the previous week. California as a whole, meanwhile, has a 2.8 percent test-positivity rate and 8.1 cases per 100,000.

On the vaccine front, the state announced last week the beginning process of transitioning vaccine distribution to Blue Shield, which has been contracted by the state to streamline and manage the logistics of allocating vaccines to local health departments and providers. The switch will happen in three waves, with Humboldt County, which currently ranks 28th in the state for doses administered per capita, according to a Journal analysis, falling in the third wave later this month.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine — manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — for emergency use, and a first shipment of 200 doses arrived in Humboldt County this week.

Currently, local residents over the age of 65, healthcare workers, teachers, first responders, food and agricultural workers, and residents ages 16 to 65 with one of a specific list of high-risk medical conditions or disabilities are eligible to receive their shots, with the first vaccine clinic for the food and ag sector set for next week. 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.

Residents are also urged to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines as vaccinations roll out, which could take months.

To date, Humboldt County has confirmed 3,370 cases, with 135 hospitalizations and 34 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard lists 3,211 people as having "recovered" from the virus locally, though that just means they are no longer contagious and does not account for long-term health impacts, which local healthcare workers have told the Journal can be substantial, even in previously healthy patients.

The county’s test positivity rate has gone from 3.6 percent in November, to 7.3 percent in December and 9.9 percent in January, before dropping to 6.5 percent in February. Through the first 15 days of March, it has dropped to 5.1 percent.

Nationwide, more than 29.2 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with 532,355 related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In California, 3.5 million cases have been confirmed with 55,330 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

The state has issued a travel advisory strongly discouraging all non-essential travel and urging anyone returning from non essential, out-of-state travel needs to self-quarantine for a minimum of 10 days upon their return.

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.

Read the county release below:


Mar. 15, 2021 - 21 New Cases Reported Since Friday

707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm Opens in new window
Twenty-one new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Humboldt County since the most recent report on Friday. The total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 3,370.

Humboldt County Public Health will hold two large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinics this week, in partnership with local health care providers, and expects to administer approximately 1,300 doses. More than 600 of these clinic spaces are reserved for second doses.

Clinic appointments are still by invitation only. To fill appointments available to those ages 65 and older, Public Health is using information submitted through the online interest form based on vaccine priorities outlined by the state.

To access the Interest Form:

English: humboldtgov.org/InterestForm
Español: humboldtgov.org/formulariadeinteres.
Other local approved vaccinators are reaching out directly to their qualifying patients to schedule vaccination appointments.

Groups now prioritized for vaccination include:

Age 65 and over – All county residents in this age group qualify.
Emergency services – All law enforcement, fire and medical first responders, including volunteer and paid personnel.
K-12 and early education, child care – All staff, paid and volunteer, who work in a K-12 or early childhood education setting as educators or support staff. This includes aides and office staff as well as transportation, custodial, cafeteria and maintenance workers.
Higher education – All educators and support staff.
Phase 1A health care – All workers in this sector.
Those 16-64 with specific high-risk medical conditions or disabilities — County residents deemed to be at the very highest risk to get sick from COVID-19 qualify.
Vaccination priorities are set by the State of California, and the ability to vaccinate additional groups remains strictly limited by available supply. Without a significant increase in weekly allocation, it will be months before Humboldt County will have enough doses to vaccinate everyone in these sectors and age groups.

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.

Some Safeway and CVS Pharmacy locations are offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments in partnership with the county and federal government, respectively. Learn who is eligible for vaccination and sign up for an appointment at one of these locations by clicking on the links below.

Safeway: https://www.mhealthappointments.com/covidappt
CVS Pharmacy: https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine?icid=cvs-home-hero1-link2-coronavirus-vaccine.


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

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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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