Thursday, September 9, 2021

Public Health Confirms 115 New Cases, Two Hospitalizations

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2021 at 4:16 PM

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 115 COVID-19 cases and two hospitalizations.

The hospitalizations reported today were of a resident in their 50s and another in their 60s. The county's COVID death toll stands at 80, with 30 reported since Aug. 1.

Today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 390 samples with a test-positivity rate of 17.08 percent — came after a brutal August, which saw more than 2,000 new cases locally, and record hospitalizations of 98 and 22 deaths.

Yesterday, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman announced that, due to staffing limitations, Public Health will shift its resources away from communitywide contact tracing to places with the most vulnerable populations and with greater ability to control the spread of the virus through vaccination, masking, distancing and ventilation, including schools, long-term care facilities, shelters and other congregate living settings.

"Beginning Monday, Sept. 20, Public Health will no longer call every resident who tests positive for COVID-19. Instead, those who test positive will receive a text message or email from CalCONNECT, the state’s virtual contact tracing system. The message will include a link to a contact tracing survey along with instructions for isolation," today's update reads.

A state database shows 36 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally — down from a record 42 Friday — with six 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 (4.5 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, 54.1 percent of local residents are now fully vaccinated, with nearly 70 percent of residents over the age of 12 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 on 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.

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.

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 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 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 once 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.

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:

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

Eureka – Saturday, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cruz’n Eureka (Eureka Waterfront) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Sunday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Zoe Barnum School (216 W Harris 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 7,693 cases, with 354 hospitalizations and 80 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 17.4 percent.

Nationwide, more than 40.3 million cases have been confirmed with 652,480 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.3 million cases and 66,257 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. 9, 2021 - 115 New Cases, 2 Hospitalizations Reported Today
One-hundred fifteen new cases of COVID-19 have been processed and confirmed in Humboldt County today, bringing to 7,693 the total number of residents who have tested positive.

Two new hospitalizations have also been reported, including one resident in their 50s and one in their 60s.

On Wednesday, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman announced that, due to staffing limitations, Public Health will shift its resources away from communitywide contact tracing to places with the most vulnerable populations and with greater ability to control the spread of the virus through vaccination, masking, distancing and ventilation. Those include schools, long-term care facilities, shelters and other congregate living settings.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 20, Public Health will no longer call every resident who tests positive for COVID-19. Instead, those who test positive will receive a text message or email from CalCONNECT, the state’s virtual contact tracing system. The message will include a link to a contact tracing survey along with instructions for isolation.

Anyone who is identified as a close contact of someone known to have COVID-19 should follow quarantine guidance. Read more about isolation and quarantine and access resources for home care at humboldtgov.org/blanketorders.

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:

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

Eureka – Saturday, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cruz’n Eureka (Eureka Waterfront)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Sunday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Zoe Barnum School (216 W. Harris St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Monday, Sept. 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Public Health Main (529 I St.)
Moderna/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.

Two deaths were reported Wednesday, and their age ranges were inadvertently omitted. One person was in their 60s and the other was in their 70s.

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.
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Iridian Casarez

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Iridian Casarez is a staff writer at the North Coast Journal.

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