Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Public Health Confirms 16 New COVID-19 Cases, Reports Discovery of UK Variant in Humboldt

Posted By on Tue, Apr 27, 2021 at 4:39 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 16 new COVID-19 cases today, making 84 so far this week, while also reporting that the federal government has confirmed the first case of the B.1.1.7. variant, commonly referred to as the "UK variant," in Humboldt County.

Today's cases were confirmed after laboratories processed 176 samples with a test positivity rate of 9.1 percent, bringing the county's cumulative case total too 3,799.

The discovery of the UK variant locally is not surprising given how widespread it is in other parts of the state and country, but it is cause for concern because mutations on the virus' spike protein make it more contagious.

"Public Health officials say the presence of this variant locally is concerning given this increased transmissibility," a press release states. "Officials went on to say that vaccination paired with prevention measures like masking, handwashing and avoiding gatherings is the most effective way to limit spread of the B.1.1.17. or any other variant of COVID-19."

The 130 new cases confirmed last week were up from 71 the prior week, which itself was a doubling of the week before. And as case counts have risen in recent weeks, so has the county's test-positivity rate.

Public Health urges all residents who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who are experiencing symptoms to get tested, with a wide variety of no-cost options.

Meanwhile, the county reported Friday that due to a low recent vaccine uptake rate in Humboldt County, the county would receive 4,140 doses of vaccine this week — far less than the 7,440 doses received this week and less than half the 11,000 doses received the week before. The county has repeatedly urged residents to schedule vaccination appointments, saying "many" spaces remain open for clinics this weekend. The low local uptake rate led the county to recently give San Francisco 1,0oo doses of the Pfizer vaccine that were at risk of going unused locally, and Public Health reported that it declined 1,000 additional doses for this week, as well, the first time it has declined an allocation of vaccine doses from the state.

This week, the county will hold vaccination clinics in Arcata and Fortuna, with Arcata's clinics held at the Arcata Community Center on Wednesday through Sunday, with walk-ins welcome from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Appointments are encouraged to reduce wait times.) Fortuna's clinic, meanwhile, will be held Saturday.

Those wanting a vaccine can also register online through www.myturn.ca.gov.

Public Health also reported today that it will resume administering the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine after the Centers for Disease Control cleared it resume doing so last week.

The state of California, meanwhile, updated its COVID-19 risk tiers today, keeping Humboldt County in the "moderate" or orange tier it entered earlier this month, which allowed businesses such as restaurants, gyms and movie theaters to increase indoor operations while allowing others — including bowling alleys and family fun centers — to open.

The state data showed that Humboldt County has a test positive rate of 3.1 percent (compared to 2.3 percent last week) and a daily case rate of 5.9 per 100,000 compared to the prior week's 4.7. California overall, meanwhile, reports a 1.5 percent test-positivity rate and 4.7 cases per 100,000.
On April 1, the state cleared outdoor sports events and live performances 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.)

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 3,799 cases, with 147 hospitalizations and 38 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard lists 3,587 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. In March, it dropped to 4.5 percent. Through the first seven days of April, it sat at 1.9 percent. Since then, it has jumped to 7.4 percent.

Nationwide, more than 31.9 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with 569,771 related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In California, more than 3.6 million cases have been confirmed with 60,208 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

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:

April 27, 2021 - 16 New Cases Reported Today; B.1.1.7. Variant Identified in Humboldt

707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm Opens in new window
Sixteen additional cases of COVID-19 were reported in Humboldt County today. Two previously reported cases were removed after one was determined to be a duplicate and another was from a jurisdiction outside of the county. The total number of county residents who have tested positive now stands at 3,799.

Genomic sequencing of local COVID-19 samples conducted by the federal government has confirmed the first case of the B.1.1.7. variant, often referred to as the UK variant, in Humboldt County. Public Health case investigators determined that this case was not associated with travel, which indicates it was most likely contracted through community spread.

The B.1.1.7. variant has been listed as a Variant of Concern by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is believed to spread more easily due to mutations of the virus’s spike protein. Public Health officials say the presence of this variant locally is concerning given this increased transmissibility but not surprising given how broadly it has spread statewide. Officials went on to say that vaccination paired with prevention measures like masking, handwashing and avoiding gatherings is the most effective way to limit spread of the B.1.1.7. or any other variant of COVID-19.

Thousands of appointments for the Pfizer vaccine are available this week, and clinics are planned at Fortuna High School and Arcata Community Center. All county residents age 16 and older can schedule a first or second dose appointment. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and provide proof of age.

See the schedule of Pfizer clinics below:

Arcata Community Center – Wednesday, April 28; Thursday, April 29; Friday, April 30; Saturday, May 1; Sunday, May 2 (walk-in hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Fortuna High School – Saturday, May 1.
For appointment times and to register, go to MyTurn.ca.gov.

View the Humboldt County Data Dashboard online at humboldtgov.org/dashboard, or go to humboldtgov.org/DashboardArchives to download today’s data.

For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or by contacting covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.

Some Safeway, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Walgreen’s and Walmart locations are offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Learn who is eligible for vaccination and see if there are appointments available at one of these locations by clicking on the links below.

Safeway: mhealthappointments.com/covidappt
CVS Pharmacy: cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine?icid=cvs-home-hero1-link2-coronavirus-vaccine
Rite Aid: https://www.riteaid.com/covid-19
Walgreen’s: walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19
Walmart: walmart.com/cp/1228302

Sign up for COVID-19 vaccination: MyTurn.ca.gov
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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