Friday, August 20, 2021

Two More HumCo Residents Die of COVID, 91 New Cases Reported

Posted By on Fri, Aug 20, 2021 at 3:13 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.
Two more Humboldt County residents have died of COVID-19, Public Health announced today, while confirming 91 new cases of the virus and seven new hospitalizations.

Both of the residents who died were in their 60s, according to Public Health, which also reported that one of the new hospitalizations is of a resident between the ages of 10 and 19.

Today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 554 samples with a test-positivity rate of 16.4 percent — make 362 for the week.

With today's cases, the county has now confirmed 1,320 so far in August, as well as 67 hospitalizations and eight deaths as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to circulate widely in the local community. 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 14.9 percent in August, far outpacing state (5.8 percent) and national (11.6 percent) rates.

A state database, meanwhile, shows 29 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with a record 15 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains a growing concern among health officials.

Public Health also reported yesterday that 59.1 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated in Humboldt County, or 51.7 percent of the total population.

The county reported today that while average daily case rates among fully vaccinated residents have dropped sharply since the county reimplemented a mandatory masking order Aug. 7 — falling from 28 cases per 100,000 residents to 18 — rates among unvaccinated residents remain critically high at 73 per 100,000 residents.

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Yesterday, the county also reported that due to the 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.


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 this week 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 20.5 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, now has the worst rate in California, with 18 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including six 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.

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.)

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:

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

McKinleyville – Monday, Aug. 23, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Dollar General – (1180 Murray Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Wednesday, Aug. 25, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Housing Authority – (735 W. Everding 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 6,427 cases, with 304 hospitalizations and 61 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 37.3 million cases have been confirmed with 624,213 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4 million cases and 64,503 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 20, 2021 - 2 Deaths, 91 New Cases Reported Today
Two Humboldt County residents in their 60s have died with COVID-19, bringing to 61 the number of residents who have died with the virus. The staff of the Department Operations Center extends their condolences to the family, friends and caregivers of those who died.

Ninety-one new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the county today. Five cases were removed from the case count as they were determined to be from another jurisdiction. The total number of residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 6,427.

Seven new hospitalizations were also reported, including one person between the ages of 10 and 19, one in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s and two in their 70s.

The graph below shows average weekly case rates between Dec. 26, 2020, and Aug. 14, 2021, in unvaccinated and fully vaccinated individuals. The data in the graph is adjusted each week to reflect updates to the COVID-19 case database. Examples of updates include new additions to the data, reclassifications of existing data and changes to population numbers.
click to enlarge document.jpg
As the graph illustrates, following the universal masking order that went into effect Aug. 7, case rates dropped sharply among the 51.7% of the county population that is fully vaccinated. Case rates among unvaccinated members of the community remain critically high at nearly four times the rate of the fully vaccinated population. In the last two weeks, the percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated has increased by 1.1%, and most vaccine doses administered locally were first doses, meaning more residents have begun their vaccination series.



Vaccine remains broadly available at this time and is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19. While breakthrough cases do occur, all available vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, 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:

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

McKinleyville – Monday, Aug. 23, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Dollar General – (1180 Murray Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Wednesday, Aug. 25, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Housing Authority – (735 W. Everding 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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