Friday, August 13, 2021

Public Health Confirms 41 New COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalization of Someone Under 20

Posted By on Fri, Aug 13, 2021 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge Health Officer Ian Hoffman - SCREENSHOT
  • screenshot
  • Health Officer Ian Hoffman
Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 41 new COVID-19 cases today — making 471 for the week — as well as four new hospitalizations, including one of a person younger than 20.

The new hospitalizations bring Humboldt County to a new all-time high.
A state database shows 33 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally — more than at any point during the pandemic — with a record nine under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains a growing concern among health officials.

With today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 395 samples with a test-positivity rate of 10.4 percent — the county has now confirmed 858 cases so far this month, as well as 42 hospitalizations and five deaths. 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 15.1 percent in August, far outpacing state (6.2 percent) and national (10.2 percent) rates.

Today, Public Health released case data for the week ending Aug. 7, broken up by vaccination status and it shows unvaccinated residents caught the virus at roughly three times the rate of their unvaccinated peers. For the week, fully vaccinated individuals saw a case rate of 26 per 100,000 residents, while unvaccinated residents saw a case rate of 75 per 100,000 residents.

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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.

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.)

A county press release Wednesday notes that four local residents were also being treated for the virus at out-of-area facilities, though it was unclear if they had to be transferred due to limited capacity locally.

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. The county announced today that it is expanding testing capacity locally and will open a new Eureka location to offer no-cost testing "most weekdays." Additionally, OptumServe, which provides no-cost testing seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka, also holds testing clinics fonce a week in McKinleyville, Fortuna, Hoopa and Arcata. (See the press release below for the full schedule and locations.) Due to high demand, appointments are encouraged and can be made here.

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 17 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including seven under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 61.1 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.

"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:

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

Ferndale – Wednesday, Aug. 18, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – Belotti Hall (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Thursday, Aug. 19, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – Belotti Hall (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 20, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth 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.

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 5,970 cases, with 279 hospitalizations and 58 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 36.2 million cases have been confirmed with 617,096 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 3.9 million cases and 64,098 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:
41 New Cases Reported Today
Forty-one new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Humboldt County today. The total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 5,970.

Four hospitalizations were also reported, including one person between the ages of 10 and 20, one person in their 40s, one in their 50s and one in their 60s. Currently, 33 county residents are hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19.

The graph below shows average weekly case rates between Dec. 26, 2020 and Aug.7, 2021 in unvaccinated and fully vaccinated individuals. In the week ending Aug. 7, the average case rate for unvaccinated individuals rose to 75 per 100,000 residents, nearly triple the rate for vaccinated individuals, which is 26 cases per 100,000 residents. For additional information, please view a more detailed depiction of the data here.


Chart showing case rates (per 100K) since December 2020 with the unvaccinated case rate at 21, vaccinated at zero. Unvaccinated case rates climb to 28 in January, down as low as three in late April, then up to 26 in mid-May, while unvaccinated cases rates never exceeded two. On June 15 when COVID restrictions were lifted, the unvaccinated case was 10 and vaccinated case rate was zero. Then by mid-July cases for everyone began to climb. On August 7, the unvaccinated case rate rose to 75 and vaccinated case rate was 26.

Case rates continue to climb to unprecedented levels in the community, due to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant. Vaccination combined with precautions such as universal masking and physical distancing are vital to containing the spread.

All available vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe outcomes, hospitalization 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:

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

Ferndale – Wednesday, Aug. 18, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Thursday, Aug. 19, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 20, from noon to 3 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
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.

On Aug. 11, the Joint Information Center incorrectly reported the number of vaccine doses administered by local vaccinators since the previous week’s update on Aug. 4. The correct number is 1,787 doses. The Joint Information Center regrets the error.

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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