Friday, August 27, 2021

Public Health Confirms Six New COVID-19 Deaths as Hospitalizations Hit Record High

Posted By on Fri, Aug 27, 2021 at 4:45 PM

click to enlarge PUBLIC HEALTH
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Six more Humboldt County residents have died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while announcing three hospitalizations.

“Each life lost to COVID-19 is a member of our community, someone’s family member, neighbor and friend,” said Public Health Director Sofia Pereira in a press release. “We grieve these losses for those who knew and loved them and for our entire community.”

The six deaths reported today included those of residents in their 30s, 50s, 60s and 80s, according to the press release.

Public Health confirmed 19 new cases, as well, today, after laboratories processed 439 samples with a test-positivity rate of 4.3 percent. However, Public Health estimates there are "around 100 additional cases" that have been reported to the state's database but not yet confirmed by local staff due to reductions in state resources and the realignment of local staff to contact investigations and vaccine efforts. Those outstanding cases will be vetted and added to Monday's report, according to a press release.

A state database, meanwhile, shows a record 37 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with 11 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains an acute concern among health officials, with patients increasingly being transferred out of the county for care or having non-emergency procedures cancelled.

Today's confirmed cases make 1,767 so far this month, to go with 76 hospitalizations and 18 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 15 percent in August, far outpacing state (5.8 percent) and national (11.6 percent) rates.

At a press conference yesterday, Health Officer Ian Hoffman said St. Joseph Hospital is in the midst of finalizing an agreement with the state to send a team of nurses to the hospital as an ongoing staffing shortage — coupled with the surge in COVID-19 cases — is limiting capacity to the point that he said six local residents are currently being hospitalized outside the area. Further, Hoffman said, the surge has limited capacity to the point that local hospitals have canceled non-emergency procedures, including heart and cancer surgeries, to preserve staffing.

Hoffman reiterated that vaccinations remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, noting that's reflected in the county's current hospitalization census.

"The vast majority are the unvaccinated," he said.

According to the county's dashboard, 52.4 percent of local residents are now fully vaccinated, with another 6.85 percent having received one dose. While the 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 16 — rates among unvaccinated residents remain critically high at 83 per 100,000 residents.

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Last week, 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.

According to a data tracker run by the nonprofit news organization CalMatters, Humboldt's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 24.2 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, now has the worst rate in California, with 20 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including six under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 79.1 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents. According to the state database, there are no ICU beds available.

Earlier this month, 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.)

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:

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 27, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Honeydew – Friday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Honeydew Elementary School (1 Wilder Ridge Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Sunday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Redwoods Rural Health Center (101 W. Coast Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Monday, Aug. 30, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Public Health Main (529 I St.) Moderna/Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Samoa Bridge Boat Launch (1701 Waterfront Dr.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Thursday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
College of the Redwoods (7351 Tompkins Hill Road) Moderna/Pfizer

McKinleyville – Friday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Samoa – Friday, Sept. 3, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Humboldt Bay Social Club (900 New Navy Base Road) 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 today, Humboldt County had confirmed 6,874 cases, with 319 hospitalizations and 71 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 38.5 million cases have been confirmed with 632,786 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.1 million cases and 65,033 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 27, 2021 - 6 Deaths Reported; Public Health Estimates 100+ New Cases
Six Humboldt County residents have died as a result of COVID-19, including one person in their 30s, two in their 50s, one in their 60s and two over the age of 80. Ten COVID-related deaths have been reported in the county this week. Seventy-one have been recorded since the pandemic began.

“Each life lost to COVID-19 is a member of our community, someone’s family member, neighbor and friend,” said Public Health Director Sofia Pereira. “We grieve these losses for those who knew and loved them and for our entire community.”

Nineteen new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed today, and Public Health estimates around 100 additional cases have been reported to the state’s database. Local review of those cases, however, has been delayed due to further reductions in state-assigned staff and reassignment of local staff to contact tracing and vaccination efforts. These cases are expected to be processed by Monday’s report and added to the homepage counter. Demographic data for these cases will be included in next Friday’s weekly update.

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

The graph below shows average weekly case rates between unvaccinated and vaccinated residents in Humboldt County since Dec. 26, 2020, shortly after vaccines became available. As the graph illustrates, case rates continue to drop among vaccinated residents and rise among unvaccinated residents to nearly triple the rate of the previous peak in Jan. 2021.

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 vaccinated case rates never exceeded two. On June 15 when COVID restrictions were lifted, the unvaccinated case rate was 10 and vaccinated case rate was zero. Then by mid-July cases for everyone began to climb. As of August 14, the unvaccinated case rate has risen to 83 and vaccinated case rate was down from 29 to 18.

Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent severe outcomes from COVID-19. Immunocompromised individuals who received two doses of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) are advised to get an additional dose of the same vaccine at least 28 days or more after their second dose.

Starting Monday, Aug. 30, all three vaccines including Moderna will be offered on Mondays by appointment at the Public Health Main Clinic located at 529 I St. in Eureka. Vaccines are available throughout the week at mobile Public Health clinics. Walk-ins are welcome, or appointments can be made in advance at MyTurn.ca.gov. For instructions in English or Spanish about how to use My Turn, go to humboldtgov.org/2872/Vaccine-Info.

See the schedule of upcoming Public Health clinics below:

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Sunday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Redwoods Rural Health Center (101 W. Coast Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Monday, Aug. 30, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Public Health Main (529 I St.)
Moderna/Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Tuesday, Aug. 31, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Samoa Bridge Boat Launch (1701 Waterfront Dr.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Thursday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
College of the Redwoods (7351 Tompkins Hill Road)
Moderna/Pfizer

McKinleyville – Friday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Samoa – Friday, Sept. 3, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Humboldt Bay Social Club (900 New Navy Base Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Vaccines are also available at many local pharmacies, and most allow walk-ins. To check availability of a particular vaccine at local pharmacies, visit vaccines.gov, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to find a participating pharmacy nearby.

Pfizer is authorized for those 12 and older, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people age 18 and older. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Full protection from vaccination is achieved two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

Given the rapid spread of the virus in the community, it is more important than ever to follow local health orders and guidance. The “COVID-19 FAQs” page of the county website has been expanded to include answers to frequently asked questions about gatherings and events, youth sports and at-home COVID-19 tests. Find out more at humboldtgov.org/COVIDFAQs.

View the 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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