Thursday, July 1, 2021

Public Health Confirms 15 New COVID-19 Cases, Urges Youth to Get Vaccine

Posted By on Thu, Jul 1, 2021 at 4:08 PM

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Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 15 new COVID-19 cases today, as well as one new hospitalization of a local resident in their 40s.

Today's case results came after laboratories processed 263 samples with a test-positivity rate of 5.7 percent. According to a state database, six people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, including three under intensive care.

Public Health also reported earlier today that local health officials see "strong evidence" that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective against all four variants of the virus that have been identified locally since November. In a press release, the officials also noted concern that while the variants appear to be more contagious and cause more severe illness in young people, vaccination rates continue to lag in that demographic.

"Making up less than a third of the county population, young adults represent nearly half of the county's total COVID-19 cases," a press release states. "At the same time, vaccination rates are lagging behind in that age group, especially in 20 to 29 year olds, with fewer than 36 percent of them fully vaccinated."

Health Officer Ian Hoffman said vaccination is the only thing that will curb spread of the virus and its variants.

“We are seeing cases in younger folks and sicker people hospitalized, even people in their teens,” Hoffman said in the press release. “Variants like Alpha appear to be more infectious, more contagious, to make people sicker, and hit younger folks harder than the previous versions of the virus. Until people are vaccinated, this virus will continue to circulate among unvaccinated folks, and the potential for serious illness is still very high even in the younger age group.”

All of the Public Health vaccinations clinics scheduled this week will include the one-shot Johnson & Johnson and the Pfizer vaccine, the only one authorized for those 12 to 17.

Clinic schedule:

Trinidad – Thursday, July 1 – 2 to 6 p.m. Trinidad Town Hall (409 Trinity St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Friday, July 2 – 5 to 7:30 p.m. Arcata Ball Park/Humboldt Crabs game* (888 F St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson *Free admission and a hot dog dinner to the first 100 people who get vaccinated at this clinic.

Rio Dell – Saturday, July 3 – noon to 2 p.m. Dollar General (44 W. Davis St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

To make an appointment in advance or view additional vaccination opportunities and to request help with transportation, visit www.vaccines.gov or www.myturn.ca.gov.

Last week, an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found a likely link between certain mRNA vaccines and extremely rare instances of heart inflammation, which most commonly occurred in young men and ususally cleared itself or with minor treatment. Both the CDC and the FDA continue to recommendation vaccinations for those 12 and older.

To date, Humboldt County has confirmed 4,582 cases, with 211 hospitalizations and 50 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard lists 4,421 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 before inching back up to 5.9 percent in April. In May, it jumped to 8.3 percent but fell back to 5.9 percent in June.

Nationwide, more than 33.4 million cases have been confirmed with 602,401 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 3.7 million cases and 63,096 related deaths have been confirmed in California, 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 and other newly opened screening site information can be found here.

The testing site moved to the Wharfinger Building today. Read more here.

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 JIC releases below:

July 1, 2021 - County’s COVID Response Transitions to DHHS; 15 New Cases Reported Today

Coordination of Humboldt County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic formally transferred from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) to the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) effective today.

While the two agencies have been working in tandem for the last 16 months, the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center has been deactivated, and response efforts have been reorganized under the DHHS Departmental Operations Center (DOC), which will be led by Public Health.

Since the first local case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in February of last year, Public Health, the EOC and community partners brought testing resources online, established an alternate care site, oversaw vaccination of approximately half the county and developed an extensive network of mobile vaccination resources.

Emergency Services Manager Ryan Derby said OES’s typical role is to stabilize an emergency so that ongoing response efforts can be incorporated into routine government operations.

“This pandemic has been anything but typical. In fact, it’s been the longest activation in Humboldt County history, and it’s not over yet, even though the EOC is shutting down,” Derby said. “We feel confident that Public Health can continue to provide the level of services required to effectively address any needs that arise, and I’m grateful to all of the volunteers and area partners who have helped us get to this point.”

DHHS has provided the majority of staff for the duration of the incident, which leaves Public Health well prepared to manage ongoing needs, ranging from contact investigations to vaccination efforts. Though the shift to a DOC is largely internal, community members may notice some changes to visuals on some of the county’s outreach materials.

Public Health Director Sofia Pereira thanked Sheriff Honsal, Ryan Derby and EOC staff for their partnership over the last 16 months. “Public Health has worked alongside OES to build the foundation of the county’s response, and we will continue that work to get resources to the people who need them,” she said.

The COVID-19 Call Center will continue to answer questions about safety measures, testing and vaccination from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 707-441-5000 or email covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us.

Fifteen additional cases of COVID-19 were reported in Humboldt County today. Two previously reported cases were removed after one was determined to be from another jurisdiction and another was found to be a false positive. A total of 4,582 county residents have tested positive for the virus.

One county resident in their 40s has been hospitalized since yesterday’s report.

Local health officials urge everyone age 12 and over to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and say it’s the best way to prevent serious illness and death from the virus. Vaccine is available at Public Health clinics and at most local pharmacies.

Public Health will hold vaccination clinics in multiple locations over the next week, including at Friday’s Humboldt Crabs game in collaboration with North Coast Senator Mike McGuire and the California Department of Public Health. The first 100 people who get vaccinated at this clinic receive free admission to the game and a hot dog dinner.

Sign up in advance at MyTurn.ca.gov. See the clinic schedule for the next seven days below.

Arcata – Friday, July 2 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Arcata Ball Park/Humboldt Crabs game (888 F St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson
Free admission and a hot dog dinner for the first 100 people who get vaccinated at this clinic.

Rio Dell – Saturday, July 3 from noon to 2 p.m.
Dollar General (44 W. Davis St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Fortuna – Tuesday, July 6 from noon to 2 p.m.
Dollar General (650 S. Fortuna Blvd.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Samoa – Wednesday, July 7 from 3 to 6 p.m.
Samoa Women’s Club (115 Rideout Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Fortuna – Thursday, July 8 from 3 to 6 p.m.
Humboldt Senior Resource Center (3200 Newburg Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

County residents age 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine. Minor children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is authorized for those 18 and older.

COVID-19 vaccine is also available at many local pharmacies. Check availability at vaccines.gov, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to find a participating pharmacy nearby. Most pharmacies allow walk-ins.

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.

Sign up for COVID-19 vaccination: MyTurn.ca.gov
Check for vaccine availability at a local pharmacy: Vaccines.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
###


July 1, 2021 - Vaccines Appear Effective Against COVID-19 Variants of Concern

Local health officials see strong evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against all four “variants of concern” that have been identified in Humboldt County since November 2020. Yet young adults, the group most affected by these variants, remain the least vaccinated group in the county.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designate variants of concern, which have mutations in the genome that cause the virus to act differently — spreading more easily, causing more severe disease or requiring different treatments.

Current data suggest that the vaccines used in the U.S. protect against all known variants spreading in the country. “Even if a virus has one or more mutations in the spike protein, vaccines and natural infection would still be expected to provide valuable protection,” according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Since January of this year, the number of new cases in Humboldt County has risen sharply among adults under the age of 40. Making up less than a third of the county population, young adults represent nearly half of the county’s total COVID-19 cases. At the same time, vaccination rates are lagging behind in that age group, especially in 20- to 29-year-olds, with fewer than 36% of them fully vaccinated.

“We are seeing cases in younger folks and sicker people hospitalized, even people in their teens,” noted Dr. Ian Hoffman, Humboldt County Public Health Officer. “Variants like Alpha appear to be more infectious, more contagious, to make people sicker, and hit younger folks harder than the previous versions of the virus. Until people are vaccinated, this virus will continue to circulate among unvaccinated folks, and the potential for serious illness is still very high even in the younger age group,” he warned.

Local contact tracing and genome sequencing have tied recent Humboldt County outbreaks to two variants labelled Alpha and Gamma by the World Health Organization (WHO).

At present, Alpha and Gamma stand as the prevalent variants of concern in Humboldt County. Alpha, introduced to the county in late March, spread immediately through large gatherings to become the most common variant in Humboldt County. Less than a month later, the Gamma variant appeared and quickly caught up. The West Coast variant, now called Epsilon, has been circulating in Humboldt County since November 2020.

The Delta variant had been confined to a single local case in May, and county health officials are still only seeing “very few” instances of Delta but expecting it along with the other variants to increase in Humboldt as elsewhere. According to the CDC, Delta now represents 20% of new cases in the nation. In California, the CDPH notes that 14.5% of new cases have been identified as Delta, spurring some counties to reinstate indoor masking recommendations.

“Testing continues to be an important part of our local COVID response” says Dr. Jeremy Corrigan, Humboldt County Laboratory Manager. “Our laboratory began sequencing COVID-positive samples on-site late May 2021, which allows continued monitoring of new variants and case investigation support.”

Vaccines not only work better against variants, but also show signs of lasting longer, note local Public Health officials. “This immune response is strong, and it appears to be potentially much more long-lasting than we originally thought that it was going to be,” Hoffman said.

View the Humboldt County Data Dashboard online at humboldtgov.org/dashboard, or go to humboldtgov.org/DashboardArchives to download the most recent 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.

Sign up for COVID-19 vaccination: MyTurn.ca.gov
Check for vaccine availability at a local pharmacy: Vaccines.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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