Wednesday, August 11, 2021

HumCo Hits COVID Hospitalization Record as County Confirms 33 New Cases

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 2021 at 4:08 PM

click to enlarge Humboldt County Public Health Microbiologist Annayal Yikum prepares patient samples for the COVID-19 testing process. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Humboldt County Public Health Microbiologist Annayal Yikum prepares patient samples for the COVID-19 testing process.
Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 33 new COVID-19 cases today — making 340 so far this week — as well as four new hospitalizations.

The recent spike in cases and a corresponding threat to local hospital capacity prompted Health Officer Ian Hoffman to announce a new countywide masking mandate that went into effect Aug. 7. A state database shows 29 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally — the highest number at any point during the pandemic — with six under intensive care.

National, state and local health officials advise that vaccination remains an incredibly safe and effective protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COIVD-19, and the county has a host of no-cost clinics scheduled over the next week. (See the full schedule below.)

The county's press release today notes that four local residents are also being treated for the virus at out-of-area facilities, though it's unclear if they had to be transferred due to limited capacity locally.

Today's cases were reported after laboratories processed 273 samples with a test-positivity rate of 12.1 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 16 percent in August, far outpacing state (6.2 percent) and national (10.2 percent) rates.

The case surge is also impacting local testing capacity, public health reports, with the county's OptumServe site and local pharmacies struggling to meet demand. As such, the county is recommending anyone with a known COVID-19 exposure to quarantine for 10 to 14 days and only test if they have symptoms.

According to a data tracker run by the nonprofit news organization CalMatters, Humboldt's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 21.3 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, now has the worst rate in California, with 15 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including seven under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 53.59 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents. According to the state database, there are no ICU beds available.

Yesterday, Del Norte County's only hospital, Sutter Coast Hospital, announced it was opening two surge tents to treat patients while canceling all non-emergent procedures in the hospital, and issued a plea to local residents to follow public health recommendations and get vaccinated. (Read more here.)

During a press conference last week, 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 Humboldt 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."

According to Monday's news release from the county's Joint Information Center, the county's first breakthrough case was recorded in February and cases rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals have "continued to rise sharply since the state’s June 15 reopening" but at a slower rate for those who are vaccinated.

click to enlarge vaz_v._non_vax.jpg

"Current case rates for unvaccinated residents far exceed previous peaks for in January and May and rise to an unprecedented rate among fully vaccinated residents," the release states.  "The rise in cases underscores the need for precautions like universal masking and physical distancing, as well as the urgency to get more people vaccinated in the community."

In announcing the masking order — which requires 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."

Last week, health officials also urged local residents to reconsider gatherings with people outside their households.

The local case news comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control released new data 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.

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.

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 – Wednesday, Aug. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Thursday, Aug. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Arcata Transit Center (925 E St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Garberville – Friday, Aug. 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Garberville Farmers’ Market (Garberville Town Square at Church St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Friday, Aug. 13, from 4:15 to 5 p.m.
Dean Creek RV Park (4112 Redwood Dr.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Fortuna – Sunday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fortuna River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Dr.) 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.

On Friday, 134 residents were vaccinated at clinics hosted by Six Rivers Brewery and the McKinleyville Ace Home and Garden Center, the JIC reports.


As of today, Humboldt County had confirmed 5,841 cases, with 267 hospitalizations and 57 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard listed 5,060 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 35.9 million cases have been confirmed with 615,778 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 3.9 million cases and 63,976 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 county's Joint Information Center release below:
August 11, 2021 - 33 New Cases Reported; Hospital Capacity Tightens
Thirty-three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Humboldt County today, bringing the total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus to 5,841.

Four new hospitalizations also were reported today, including one person in their 30s, two in their 60s and one in their 70s. Currently, 29 county residents are hospitalized with COVID-19, marking a new high. Four additional county residents are being treated for the virus at out-of-area facilities.

Humboldt County Public Health and other approved local vaccinators have administered a total of 140,534 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination data on the Humboldt County Data Dashboard has been updated. Some highlights include:

Local vaccinators have administered 16,787 doses since the last weekly report, with a majority of those being first doses.
69,522 Humboldt County residents are now fully vaccinated, representing 58.4% of the vaccine-eligible population age 12 or older and 51.4% of the county’s total population.
Health officials widely agree that getting vaccinated remains the single most important thing eligible residents can do to prevent serious illness from COVID-19 while also offering protection to those who aren’t able to get vaccinated. All available vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe outcomes, hospitalizations and death from the virus. Vaccine is available at Public Health clinics located throughout the county, and walk-ins are welcome. To make an appointment in advance, go to MyTurn.ca.gov.

See the schedule of upcoming Public Health clinics below:

Arcata – Thursday, Aug. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Arcata Transit Center (925 E St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Garberville – Friday, Aug. 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Garberville Farmers’ Market (Garberville Town Square at Church St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Friday, Aug. 13, from 4:15 to 5 p.m.
Dean Creek RV Park (4112 Redwood Dr.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Fortuna – Sunday, Aug. 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fortuna River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Dr.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Most local pharmacies also offer COVID-19 vaccines, and many allow walk-ins. Visit vaccines.gov to check availability, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to find a participating pharmacy nearby.

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.

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
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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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