Friday, February 25, 2022

CDC Eases Masking Recommendations, But Not in 'High' Risk Humboldt

Posted By on Fri, Feb 25, 2022 at 3:35 PM

click to enlarge U.S. county risk levels according to the CDC's new metrics, with orange meaning "high" risk, yellow meaning "medium" and green meaning "low." - CDC
  • CDC
  • U.S. county risk levels according to the CDC's new metrics, with orange meaning "high" risk, yellow meaning "medium" and green meaning "low."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has revamped its COVID-19 risk tier criteria, rolling back masking recommendations for much of the country. Humboldt County, however, remains in the CDC's "high" risk tier, with the agency's masking recommendation remaining firmly in place locally.

The new CDC metrics take into account high national levels of vaccination and natural population immunity from infections, as well as the Omicron variant's reduced risks of severe illness and death. As such, the agency's new criteria looks at a combination of three metrics to assess risk: the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, the percentage of staffed in-patient hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in population over the past seven days.

The new metrics have reduced more than half of U.S. counties housing 70 percent of the national population to "low" or "medium" risk tiers, though Humboldt did not make the cut.

Because Humboldt County has confirmed more than 200 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, it would need to have fewer than 10 new COVID-19 hospital admissions over the past seven days and be using an average of less than 10 percent of its staffed hospital beds on COVID-19 patients over the course of a seven-day period. According to the CDC, those thresholds have not been met and the county remains in the high-risk category.

Humboldt County Public Health reported 404 new COVID-19 cases over the seven-day period ending Feb. 24, or 299 per 100,000 residents. Over the same period, Public Health reported eight new COVID-19 hospitalizations, or 5.9 per 100,000 residents. According to a state database, 14 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Humboldt County, which would represent about 5 percent of the county's total hospital beds — but it's unknown what percentage of Humboldt County's total beds are staffed at this point, as local health officials have increasingly warned of staffing shortages throughout the pandemic.

Given its "high" risk status by the CDC's metrics, the agency recommends the following in Humboldt County:

— Everyone wear a well-fitting mask in indoor, public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, including in K-12 schools
— Those who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe disease wear a N95 or KN95 mask or respirator that provides greater protection and consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public
— Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters
— Continue to follow CDC recommendation for isolation and quarantine, including testing if exposed or symptomatic
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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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