Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Public Health Confirms Record 82 New COVID-19 Cases

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2021 at 4:15 PM

click to enlarge Health Officer Ian Hoffman - SCREENSHOT
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  • Health Officer Ian Hoffman
Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 82 new COVID-19 cases today — making 237 so far this week — as Health Officer Ian Hoffman announced a new mandatory masking order will go into effect countywide at midnight Friday.

Today's cases — which come after 217 were confirmed last week, the highest weekly tally since the post-holiday surge in January — were confirmed after laboratories processed 441 samples with a test-positivity rate of 18.6 percent. In July, the county recorded a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent — the highest of any month since the pandemic's start — and that has leapt to 12.4 percent through the first days of August.

During a press conference earlier today, Hoffman said he believes the highly contagious Delta variant — which data indicates may be twice as contagious as the original strain of COVID-19 — is driving the surge in local case numbers, as is the case nationally.

"Delta is very different," Hoffman said. "This is not the same virus. It's almost like we are dealing with a whole new pandemic."

While Hoffman has maintained vaccination remains incredibly effective against severe illness and death, he said Wednesday the county is seeing a growing number of positive cases in fully vaccinated individuals. He said about a quarter of the roughly 550 cases confirmed in July in Humboldt County were so-called breakthrough cases, though he said they resulted in only "a very small number" of hospitalizations.

In announcing the masking order — which will require people in Humboldt County to wear facial coverings in indoor or confined spaces outside their home and when they can't maintain 6 feet of physical distancing outdoors — Hoffman said it's an effort to bend the curve of virus spread and preserve stretched hospital capacity locally.

"We have to protect the critical infrastructure of our fragile hospital system in Humboldt County, and we want to see businesses stay open," Hoffman said, adding that the mandate is hoped to result in a 25 to 50 percent reduction in new cases but its efficacy will ultimately be determined by compliance. "We don't want to return to lockdown situations and we have to have kids in school this fall. It is with all of this in mind that we are doing this."


No new hospitalizations were recorded today but, according to a state database, 22 people remain hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, including six under intensive care.

In a press release yesterday, health officials urged local residents to reconsider gatherings with people outside their households amid a spike in cases officials believe is being fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. (Due to the recommendation, and surging case numbers, the Journal has postponed its Best of Humboldt party scheduled for Friday.

“Everyone is frustrated that this is moving backwards given all the progress made,” Health Officer Ian Hoffman said. “Think about what level of risk you can tolerate, what makes sense for yourself, your family, when deciding what activities to continue in public.”

The local case news comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released new data Friday indicating the Delta variant is highly transmittable, even among fully vaccinated people. While data indicates the vaccines remain highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and death, the CDC warns that it leads to very high viral loads even among vaccinated, mildly symptomatic people, meaning they can still easily transmit the virus to others.

Thursday, the Humboldt County Administrative Office announced that as of tomorrow facial coverings will be required in all county facilities, warning the current surge in cases poses a "real threat" to the county's ability to provide vital services.

The recommendation to continue masking comes after the increased spread of the Delta variant, which is more contagious than other COVID-19 varieties and can result in more severe illness. The Delta variant now accounts for nearly 85 percent of new infections nationally. Earlier this week, Public Health reported that the Delta variant was found in 25 percent of samples that underwent genomic sequencing last month.

In addition to wearing masks, Public Health is urging residents to help limit the spread of the virus by participating in contact tracing efforts and getting vaccinated.

According to the release, Public Health is prioritizing contact tracing investigations based on risk due to the surge in local COVID cases. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is urged to assist contact investigators in quickly identifying their close contacts, defined as those who have been within six feet for 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period.

Public Health is urging residents who have yet to do so to get their COVID-19 vaccines, as it is the only protection against severe illness and death from the virus. This week's Public Health vaccine clinics include Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses. The full schedule includes:

Eureka – Thursday, Aug. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
College of the Redwoods Gym (7351 Tompkins Hill Road)
Pfizer/Moderna

McKinleyville – Friday, Aug. 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson
*$5 vouchers toward food and drink for those who get vaccinated at this clinic.

McKinleyville – Friday, Aug. 6, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Ace Hardware (2725 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson
*$25 gift cards from Ace to those who get vaccinated at this clinic.

Eureka – Saturday, Aug. 7, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
North Coast Stand Down (Veterans Memorial Building, 1018 H St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Blue Lake – Sunday, Aug. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Blue Lake Resource Center (111 Greenwood Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Eureka Boat Launch (1701 Waterfront Drive under the Hwy. 255 overpass)
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.


As of Friday, Humboldt County had confirmed 5,351 cases, with 240 hospitalizations and 54 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard listed 4,879 cases as having been "cleared," though that just means they are no longer considered active 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. In July, it rose to 10.1 percent — the highest at any point in the pandemic.

Nationwide, more than 35.2 million cases have been confirmed with 612,386 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 3.8 million cases and 64,150 related deaths have been confirmed in California, according to the Department of Public Health.

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 release below:
August 4, 2021 - 82 New Cases Reported Today; Universal Masking Order to Take Effect Saturday
Eighty-two new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Humboldt County today, the highest single-day count in the county and far exceeding the average daily cases at the height of the pandemic in January. The total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 5,351.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman will issue a Universal Masking Order to take effect at 12:01 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 7, for all people age two and older regardless of vaccination status.

Under the terms of the order, masking will be required in:

All indoor public spaces
Outdoor spaces that are crowded or where people cannot maintain physical distance of six feet or more
Outdoor public events.
Additionally, masking is recommended but not required in private settings.

Health officials noted today that hospital capacity is nearing its limit in the community, while Humboldt County vaccination rates remain below the statewide average of 63.1%. As of this week, 50.6% of the total county population is fully vaccinated and another 5.9% is partially vaccinated.

Dr. Hoffman said he hoped the universal masking order would reduce hospitalization and case rates and prevent lockdown and closure of businesses and schools. He said the order is made necessary by hospitalization levels, vaccination rates, case rates and the presence of variants and will be reconsidered on an ongoing basis and continuously reevaluated based on these factors.

“We understand the impact this past 18 months has had on all of us,” the doctor said. “We are all exhausted by the pandemic, but our work is not done. We have to work together as a community to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control.”

Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk, Chief Executive of St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County commented on the impact of COVID-19 hospitalizations and death in the local community. “People have gotten numb with numbers, but it’s real people. It could be your neighbor,” she said. “The death of someone who is unvaccinated is needless. It’s a tragedy for that person and for the people who love them, but it also has a devastating effect on the health care team because they feel like it didn’t have to happen.”

Eligible residents are urged to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All available vaccines are effective at preventing serious outcomes from COVID-19. Vaccine is available by appointment and to walk-ins at Public Health vaccination clinics located throughout the county, and most local pharmacies also offer COVID-19 vaccines. See the Public Health clinic schedule for the next seven days below, and sign up in advance at MyTurn.ca.gov.

Eureka – Thursday, Aug. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
College of the Redwoods Gym (7351 Tompkins Hill Road)
Pfizer/Moderna

McKinleyville – Friday, Aug. 6, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson
*$5 voucher toward food and drink for those who get vaccinated at this clinic.

McKinleyville – Friday, Aug. 6, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Ace Hardware (2725 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson
*$25 gift card from Ace for those who get vaccinated at this clinic.

Eureka – Saturday, Aug. 7, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
North Coast Stand Down (Veterans Memorial Building, 1018 H St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Blue Lake – Sunday, Aug. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Blue Lake Resource Center (111 Greenwood Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Tuesday, Aug. 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Eureka Boat Launch (1701 Waterfront Drive under the Hwy. 255 overpass)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

The Pfizer vaccine is approved for children as young as 12 years old. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for those 18 and older. Full protection from the vaccine is achieved two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

To check availability of vaccines at local pharmacies, visit 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 facial covering recommendations and mandates, go to cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx.

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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