Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Public Health Confirms 840 New COVID-19 Cases, Three Hospitalizations

Posted By on Tue, Jan 18, 2022 at 4:13 PM

Humboldt  County continues to see the next phase of the holiday surge as Public Health confirmed 840 new COVID-19 cases today and three new hospitalizations since its last report on Friday. Today's cases far outpace the single-day reporting record of 478 cases reported on Jan. 10 and come as the county confirmed 1,113 cases last week bringing the month's total to 2,806.

The current surge has been attributed to the highly contagious Omicron variant, which has been circulating locally at least since Dec. 19 and has sent case rates skyrocketing to unprecedented levels throughout the country. Local officials, meanwhile, predict the current surge will reach its peak sometime in February.

The federal government is providing four free at-home COVID tests per household to increase testing capacity in response to the recent surge in cases. These can be ordered online, free of charge, at COVIDTests.gov.

While early data indicates the Omicron variant is less likely to result in severe illness, local hospitalization numbers — which generally trend 10 days to two weeks behind case trends — are already starting to tick up.

Public Health also reported today that local data shows that unvaccinated adults in Humboldt County are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized than those adults who are fully vaccinated.

A state database shows 14 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with four under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients but had fallen to nine patients on Dec. 29 before climbing back up. Across the nation, the Omicron surge has hit hospitals hard, with an influx of COVID-19 patients needing care, healthcare workers being infected and patients coming into the hospital for non-COVID care testing positive for the virus at high rates, forcing hospitals to follow labor-intensive protocols to prevent spread to other patients and staff.

Today's cases come after laboratories processed 1,555 samples with a test-positivity rate of 54 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month to that point since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August and 15.2 percent in September. In October, it dipped to 12.1 percent but rose to 14.2 percent in November and December. So far in January, it has more than doubled, rising to33 percent.

Early studies indicate the Omicron variant is able to both infect and be transmitted by fully vaccinated people at roughly the same rates as  their unvaccinated counterparts, hastening its spread through the country, state and county. However, public health officials and doctors continue to report that the vaccines remain very effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, especially in people who have received their booster doses. Locally, just 42 percent of eligible residents have received their boosters, according to this report from CalMatters.

Public Health also reported last week that, since Jan. 7, the county has recorded four COVID-19 deaths, three of unvaccinated residents and the fourth of someone whose vaccination status was unknown, and seven hospitalizations, including two fully vaccinated residents and five unvaccinated residents.

The county also reported that from June 5 through Jan. 2, 16 fully vaccinated residents have died of COVID-19 at an average age of 79, while over the same period 48 unvaccinated residents died of the disease at an average age of 67. Over the same period, Public Health reports that 56 fully vaccinated residents have been hospitalized at an average age of 74, while 244 unvaccinated residents were hospitalized at an average age of 58.

Public Health reported last Wednesday that nearly 63 percent of the county's total population is now fully vaccinated, with 71 percent of its vaccine eligible population — those 5 and older — fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released data indicating unvaccinated adults are more than eight times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated, and Public Health reports locally unvaccinated residents are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with the virus than their vaccinated counterparts.

Amid the ongoing surge locally, St. Joseph hospital sent out a press release last week saying that, due to the Omicron variant's "increased disruption to hospital staffing," it was "reminding" the public that emergency rooms are not places to get tested or vaccinated for COVID-19.

Public Health has modified local quarantine and isolation requirements, as the Journal reported last week.

The county reported Jan. 3 that genomic sequencing on two samples taken between Dec. 19 and Dec. 21 were determined to be Omicron, meaning the variant has been circulating in the county for weeks. For more on the Omicron variant and what it means for Humboldt, read the Jan.6  Journal cover story here.

Public Health officials continue to stress that the best way for residents to protect themselves from COVID-19 and variants like Omicron is to get vaccinated, wear masks indoors and in crowded places, ventilate indoor spaces, get tested immediately regardless of vaccination status if any cold- or flu-like symptoms develop and stay home when sick. Eligible residents, health officials say, should get their booster shots as soon as possible.

The CDC has designated Humboldt County as an area of high community transmission and recommends holding gatherings outdoors when possible, limiting the number of participants in indoor gatherings, adjusting the indoor layout to allow for physical distancing and enhancing the ventilation of indoor spaces.


All residents ages 12 and older are now eligible to receive vaccine boosters if it has been at least five months since they completed their primary vaccination series.

National, state and local health officials advise that vaccination remains incredibly safe and effective protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and the county has a host of no-cost clinics scheduled over the next week. With the upcoming holidays and high demand for testing and vaccine, Public Health highly recommends scheduling an appointment for either.

Arcata — Wednesday, Jan. 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
D Street Neighborhood Center (1301 D St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Hoopa — Thursday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Hoopa Fire Hall (11121 Hwy 96)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
No rapid testing available at this clinic. PCR testing offered through OptumServe by appointment only at the Hoopa Fire Hall.
Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Eureka — Friday, Jan. 21, 1 to 8 p.m.
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
No rapid testing available at this clinic. PCR testing offered through OptumServe by appointment on the lower floor of the Wharfinger Building.
Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Fortuna — Saturday, Jan. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
Fortuna Veterans Hall (1426 Main St.)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Fortuna — Sunday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
Walker Elementary School (2089 Newburg Road)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Eureka — Monday, Jan. 24, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Closed from noon to 1 p.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No testing available
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments required.

Eureka — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 9 to 11:30 a.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Ages 12 and older
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No testing available
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments required.

Eureka Pediatric Clinic — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 1:15 to 3:45 p.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Ages 5 to 11
     Pfizer only
     No testing available
     Appointments required.

Willow Creek — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed from noon to 1 p.m.
   
Public Health Office (77 Walnut Way)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Today's confirmed cases bring the county's total to 13,758 with 494 hospitalizations and 128 COVID-19 related deaths.

Nationwide, more than 65 million cases have been confirmed with 847,577
deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 6.8 million cases and 77,306 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 JIC's report below.

Jan. 18, 2022 - 840 New Cases, 3 New Hospitalizations Since Friday

Humboldt County Public Health reported today three new hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since Friday, three residents in their 70s. An additional 840 new cases were also reported since Friday, bringing to 13,758 the total number of residents who have tested positive for the virus. No new deaths were reported.

Public Health officials continue to stress that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is an effective way to lower the risk of getting and spreading the virus, and vaccines have been proven to help prevent serious illness and death. Local data shows that unvaccinated adults in Humboldt County are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized than those adults who are fully vaccinated.

Individual who are not vaccinated should take steps to limit exposure, wear a well-fitted mask in indoor public spaces, distance six feet from others when possible and avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.

To increase testing capacity in response to the recent surge in cases, the federal government is providing four at-home COVID tests per household. These can be ordered online, free of charge, at COVIDTests.gov.

Additionally, as of Jan. 15, federal law requires health insurers to cover up-front costs of at-home COVID-19 tests purchased at pharmacies or retailers, or allows individuals to be reimbursed for up to eight home tests per month. Information is available at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website.

The California Department of Public Health has updated its guidance on isolation and quarantine for workplace settings aimed at allowing certain vaccinated people who have tested positive or been exposed to continue working under specific circumstances.

As always, Humboldt County’s vaccination and testing services are available free of charge. Although walk-ins are allowed at most regular Public Health clinics and many pharmacy vaccination sites, an increase in demand for boosters has caused delays at some locations. As a result, appointments are required for pediatric clinics and for clinics at Public Health’s main office. Appointments are strongly recommended for all other clinics and are the best way to ensure a shot is available during your visit. Appointments can be made at MyTurn.ca.gov.

Vaccines, including boosters, are available at local pharmacies. To check the availability of a specific vaccine, visit the vaccines.gov page, or text your ZIP code to 438829 to locate a nearby pharmacy offering vaccines.

See the schedule below for specific Public Health vaccination and testing clinic dates, times, locations and available services. Questions about clinic services can be directed to the Joint Information Center at 1-707-441-5000.

Arcata — Wednesday, Jan. 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
D Street Neighborhood Center (1301 D St.)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Hoopa — Thursday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
Hoopa Fire Hall (11121 Hwy 96)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No rapid testing available at this clinic. PCR testing offered through OptumServe by appointment only at the Hoopa Fire Hall.
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Eureka — Friday, Jan. 21, 1 to 8 p.m.
   
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No rapid testing available at this clinic. PCR testing offered through OptumServe by appointment on the lower floor of the Wharfinger Building.
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Fortuna — Saturday, Jan. 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
Fortuna Veterans Hall (1426 Main St.)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Fortuna — Sunday, Jan. 23, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
   
Walker Elementary School (2089 Newburg Road)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

Eureka — Monday, Jan. 24, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Closed from noon to 1 p.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No testing available
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments required.

Eureka — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 9 to 11:30 a.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Ages 12 and older
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     No testing available
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments required.

Eureka Pediatric Clinic — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 1:15 to 3:45 p.m.
   
Public Health Main Office (529 I St.)
     Ages 5 to 11
     Pfizer only
     No testing available
     Appointments required.

Willow Creek — Tuesday, Jan. 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed from noon to 1 p.m.
   
Public Health Office (77 Walnut Way)
     Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson/Moderna
     PCR and rapid testing available on a first-come first-served basis
     $25 gift card for adults receiving a first or second dose
     Appointments for vaccinations strongly recommended.

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 1-707-441-5000.

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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Iridian Casarez

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

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