Monday, August 30, 2021

Public Health Confirms Five New COVID-19 Deaths, 10 New Hospitalizations

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2021 at 5:30 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 has lost five more residents to COVID-19, Public Health reported today, adding that it has confirmed 10 new hospitalizations and 118 new cases since Friday.

The five deaths — including those of three residents in their 50s — come on the heels of six reported Friday and make 23 so far this month, as a brutal record-breaking surge driven by the highly contagious Delta variant continues locally.

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

The 118 new cases — which come after 447 new cases were reported last week — were confirmed after laboratories processed 332 samples with a test-positivity rate of 35.5 percent. The county reports that roughly 125 additional cases have been reported to the state's database but not yet confirmed locally.

A state database, meanwhile, shows a record 38 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with a record 13 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains an acute concern among health officials.

Today's confirmed cases make 1,885 so far this month, to go with 86 hospitalizations and 23 deaths, with August already accounting for 27 percent of the county's total cases, 26 percent of hospitalizations 30 percent of deaths throughout the duration of the 18-month pandemic. This month's total cases also now eclipse the combined monthly totals of the post-holiday surge in December and January.

In an email this morning responding to a request that the county do localized risk assessments by zip code as a part of its COVID-19 data dashboard, Health Officer Ian Hoffman was blunt in his response.

“The current state of COVID-19 in our community is that it is endemic, meaning it is everywhere,” he wrote. “We should all assume we now come into (contact with) multiple people a day who have COVID-19, regardless of where you live in Humboldt.”

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 has jumped to 15.6 percent in August, far outpacing state (4.7 percent) and national (10.6 percent) rates.

At a press conference lat week, 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. 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.

Earlier this month, 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 27.1 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, once had the worst hospitalization rate in California and still remains among the counties with the highest rates in the state , with 14 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including five under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 43.1 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:

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 6,992 cases, with 329 hospitalizations and 76 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 38.8 million cases have been confirmed with 636,015 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.2 million cases and 65,271 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 30, 2021 - 5 Deaths, 10 Hospitalizations Reported Since Friday
Five Humboldt County residents have died due to COVID-19, including three people in their 50s and two people over the age of 80. The staff of the Department Operations Center shares their sympathies with the family, friends and caregivers of those who died.

Ten county residents have been newly hospitalized since the most recent report Friday. The age ranges of those hospitalized are as follows:

One person in their 30s
One person in their 40s
Five people in their 60s
Three people in their 70s.
One hundred eighteen new cases of COVID-19 have been processed and confirmed since Friday. Around 125 additional cases have been reported to the state’s database and are awaiting local review. Cases continue to be reviewed as quickly as possible. Only confirmed case information will be added to the Humboldt County Data Dashboard and homepage counter each day. Currently, there is no estimated timeline for resolving recent delays in data reporting.

No-cost COVID-19 testing is available through OptumServe at the Wharfinger building in Eureka seven days a week and at a different location in the county each weekday, including in Garberville on Tuesdays. A drive-thru testing site is located outside Jerold Phelps Community Hospital at 733 Cedar St. To access the site, turn into the hospital driveway just past the hospital’s clinic entrance on Elm Street. Drive-thru hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pre-registration is recommended for all sites. To sign up and view a full schedule, go to lhi.care/covidtesting.

For those who test positive for COVID-19, some health care providers may offer monoclonal antibody infusion therapy as an emergency use treatment for people who do not have symptoms and are at high risk for severe outcomes (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/treatments-for-severe-illness.html). Performed on an outpatient basis, monoclonal antibody infusion is administered through an IV and takes about two and a half hours. Local health officials point out that this labor-intensive treatment is not a substitute for getting vaccinated. While monoclonal antibodies are useful for treating someone who is already infected, COVID-19 vaccines train the body to ward off future infections and lessen the severity of breakthrough infections.

COVID-19 vaccines are available at Public Health clinics each day this week. 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:

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.

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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