Thursday, August 19, 2021

Public Health Confirms 53 New COVID-19 Cases, Five New Hospitalizations

Posted By on Thu, Aug 19, 2021 at 3:29 PM

click to enlarge A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.
Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 53 new COVID-19 cases today — making 271 so far this week — and five new hospitalizations, including one of a resident in their 30s.

Today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 508 samples with a test-positivity rate of 10.4 percent — come after the county confirmed 471 new cases last week . A state database, meanwhile, shows 28 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with a record 13 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains a growing concern among health officials.

With today's cases, the county has now confirmed 1,229 cases so far this month, as well as 60 hospitalizations and six 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 14.8 percent in August, far outpacing state (5.8 percent) and national (11.6 percent) rates.

Public Health also reported today that local vaccinators administered 1,946 doses over the past week, with a majority being first doses.  Currently, 59.1 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, or 51.7 percent of the total population.

Also in today's press release (copied below in full), the county reports that due to a record-high case volume, it will be making some changes to its dashboard and data collection practices moving forward. Specifically, the county will drop the "cases cleared" section of its dashboard because it's become too time consuming to track all patients through their illnesses, while also discontinuing updates to its "transmission type" section because "data show the virus is widespread in our communities to the extent that it is frequently impossible" to determine who someone was infected.

On Friday, 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 fully vaccinated 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.

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.)

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. Due to high demand, appointments are encouraged and can be made here.

Public Health also reported yesterday that in light of the surge in local cases, many residents have turned to at-home over-the-counter rapid antigen tests to screen for COVID-19. Unlike laboratory tests, these tests require a high level of virus to trigger a positive result, meaning false-positive results are very unlikely. Consequently, Public Health advises that folks who test positive for the virus at home do not need to get a confirmatory laboratory test unless one is required for work, school or the direction of a medical professional. Instead, folks who test positive at home and are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic should isolate for 10 days and notify any close contacts — defined as anyone you spent more than a cumulative 15 minutes within 6 feet of over a 24-hour period — of their exposure.

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 five under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 68.3 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents. According to the state database, there are no ICU beds available.

Last week, 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."

Earlier this month, 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 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:

Trinidad – Thursday, Aug. 19, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Trinidad Elementary School (300 Trinity 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

Carlotta – Friday, Aug. 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Cuddeback Elementary (300 Wilder Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

McKinleyville – Saturday, Aug. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Church of the Joyful Healer (1944 Central Ave.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 21, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Sunday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Carlson Park (Mad River Pkwy. E) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Sunday, Aug. 22, from noon to 5 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 6,341 cases, with 297 hospitalizations and 59 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard listed 5,073 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 37.2 million cases have been confirmed with 623,244 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4 million cases and 64,383 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 19, 2021 - 53 New Cases Reported Today
Fifty-three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the county today. The total number of residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 6,341.

Five new hospitalizations were also reported, including one person in their 30s, one in their 40s, one in their 50s, one in their 60s and one in their 80s.

Humboldt County Public Health and other approved local vaccinators have administered a total of 142,480 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination data on the Humboldt County Data Dashboard has been updated. Some highlights include:

Local vaccinators have administered 1,946 doses since the last weekly report, with a majority of those being first doses.
70,324 Humboldt County residents are now fully vaccinated, representing 59.1% of the vaccine-eligible population age 12 or older and 51.7% of the county’s total population.
Due to record-high case volume, changes have been made to the Department Operations Center’s data dashboard to remove metrics that have become too time-consuming to track. The “Cases Cleared” metric, for example, is no longer being updated and will eventually be removed from the dashboard, because currently there is no efficient mechanism for determining a conclusion of illness for any particular individual.

Updates to “Transmission Type” have also been discontinued. Data show that the virus is widespread in our communities to the extent that it is frequently impossible to determine whether cases come from travel, contact to a known case, community spread or any other source.

Additional changes are planned, including an increased use of automation to update the dashboard and a migration from local to state data sourcing. Both are intended to allow Public Health staff to focus their energies on getting people vaccinated and ending this pandemic.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday announced new restrictions for indoor events with 1,000 or more people attending. Starting Sept. 20, participants will be required to show documentation of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before the event. Self-attestation will no longer be allowed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also released a statement Wednesday about the plan to provide booster doses to maximize the protection of the vaccine and prolong its durability. While vaccines continue to protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death, health officials are seeing some evidence of waning protection against infection in association with the highly contagious Delta variant.

Pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, booster doses will be offered eight months after the second dose of mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna. The CDC also expects a second dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be needed. Plans are being made to ensure that adequate infrastructure and supply will be available locally if the FDA approves boosters more broadly.

Third doses of mRNA vaccines are currently recommended for those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. The third dose should be the same vaccine as the initial series and administered at least four weeks after completing a primary mRNA vaccine series. Those who want to know if a third dose is right for them should consult their primary care provider. For more information, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html.

Vaccine remains broadly available at this time and is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. 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:

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 20, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Carlotta – Friday, Aug. 20, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Cuddeback Elementary (300 Wilder Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

McKinleyville – Saturday, Aug. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Church of the Joyful Healer (1944 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 21, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Sunday, Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Carlson Park (Mad River Pkwy. E)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Sunday, Aug. 22, from noon to 5 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.

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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