Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Public Health Reports Three More COVID-19 Deaths, Along with 209 New Cases and Six Hospitalizations

Posted By on Tue, Sep 7, 2021 at 4:48 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.

Another three Humboldt County residents have died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while also confirming 209 new cases and three new hospitalizations since the county's last report Friday.

One of the residents who died was in their 40s, according to Public Health, and the others were in their 60s.

Today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 1,230 samples with a test-positivity rate of 17 percent — came after a brutal August, which saw more than 2,000 new cases locally, eclipsing the combined totals for the post-holiday surge months of December and January. August also saw records of 98 new hospitalizations and 22 deaths, accounting for 30 percent of the total hospitalizations and 29 percent of the total deaths recorded locally through the duration of the 18-month pandemic.

Friday, Public Health also reported the first local hospitalization of a child under the age of 10.

A state database shows 38 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally — down from a record 42 Friday — with 10 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains an acute concern among health officials, especially after four of six traveling nurses recruited to help Humboldt County weather the surge reportedly walked off the job last week. (For more on the challenges facing local hospitals and healthcare workers combating the surge, read last week's cover story here.)

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 15.9 percent in August, far outpacing state (4.7 percent) and national (10.6 percent) rates.

With an unprecedented rate of hospitalizations locally, Hoffman and other officials have repeatedly urged residents to get vaccinated, saying they remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. Hoffman noted that's reflected in the county's current hospitalization census.

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

According to the county's dashboard, 53.3 percent of local residents are now fully vaccinated — including 60.9 percent of the eligible population age 12 and older — 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 12 — rates among unvaccinated residents remain critically high at 84 per 100,000 residents.

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And since the first confirmed breakthrough case in February, one fully vaccinated resident has died of COVID 19 while 45 unvaccinated residents have died from the virus. The same time span has seen 31 fully vaccinated residents hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 197 unvaccinated residents.

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Last 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 how 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 27.9 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 17 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including six under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 64.7 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents.

Last 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:

Fortuna – Wednesday, Sept. 8, from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Dr.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Thursday, Sept. 9, from noon to 2 p.m.
Arcata Transit Center (925 E St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Trinidad – Thursday, Sept. 9, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Trinidad Town Hall (409 Trinity St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Garberville – Friday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Garberville Farmers’ Market (766 Locust 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.

As of today, Humboldt County had confirmed 7,546 cases, with 350 hospitalizations and 78 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

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 before jumping to 15.9 percent in August. Through the first seven days of September, it sits at 17.5 percent.

Nationwide, more than 40 million cases have been confirmed with 647,461 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.3 million cases and 66,030 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:

Sept. 7, 2021 - 3 Deaths, 6 Hospitalizations, 209 Cases Reported Since Friday
Three Humboldt County residents have died as a result of COVID-19 since the most recent report Friday, one person in their 40s and two people in their 60s. Staff in the Department Operations Center share their sympathies with the friends, family and caregivers of all those who have lost someone to the virus.

Six new hospitalizations have also been reported since Friday, including two people in their 50s, two people in their 60s, one person in their 70s and one person in their 80s.

Since Friday, 209 new cases of COVID-19 have been processed and confirmed in the county, bringing to 7,546 the total number of residents who have tested positive.

COVID-19 vaccines are available at Public Health clinics located around the county. Walk-ins are welcome, or appointments can be made in advance at MyTurn.ca.gov. For instructions in English or Spanish on how to use My Turn, go to humboldtgov.org/VaccineInfo.

See the schedule of upcoming Public Health clinics below:

Fortuna – Wednesday, Sept. 8, from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Dr.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Arcata – Thursday, Sept. 9, from noon to 2 p.m.
Arcata Transit Center (925 E St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Trinidad – Thursday, Sept. 9, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Trinidad Town Hall (409 Trinity St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Garberville – Friday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Garberville Farmers’ Market (766 Locust St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

To check availability of a particular vaccine at local pharmacies, visit vaccines.gov, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to locate a pharmacy offering vaccines nearby. Most pharmacies allow walk-ins.

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.

Changes to the Humboldt County Data Dashboard continue to be made. “Transmission Type” and “Public Health Laboratory Info” have now been removed as part of a continued effort to free up Public Health staff to focus on vaccination efforts. View the Data Dashboard online at humboldtgov.org/dashboard, or go to humboldtgov.org/DashboardArchives to download data from a previous time.

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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