Medical / Health

Friday, September 24, 2021

Public Health: Of 12 COVID-19 Hospitalizations This Week, 11 Were Unvaccinated

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2021 at 4:23 PM

PUBLIC HEALTH
  • public health

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 23 new COVID-19 cases and two new hospitalizations today but, for the first time in more than a week, did not report a COVID-19 death locally.

A state database shows 24 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients before a steadily decline over the next couple weeks. The census is creeping back up, however, as a total of 17 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Monday and there are currently 24.

"The county has seen a slight improvement in the cases and hospitalization rates, but local health officials caution that both metrics are still higher than at any point before August, the deadliest month of the pandemic," a press release states.

Today's cases — which make 259 confirmed so far this week — were reported after laboratories processed 394 samples with a test-positivity rate of 7.4 percent. 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. Through the first 24 days of September, it sits at 15.8 percent, far outpacing state (3.1 percent) and national (8.1 percent) rates.

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

HumCo Records Four More COVID-19 Deaths, 40 New Cases as Hospitalizations Rise

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2021 at 4:18 PM

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.

Four more Humboldt County residents have died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while also confirming 40 new cases of the virus and four new hospitalizations.

This is the fifth consecutive day Public Health has reported a new COVID-19 death, with 10 local deaths reported over the past seven days and 40 since Aug. 1.

A state database shows 25 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with four under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients before a steadily decline over the next couple weeks. The census is creeping back up, however, as a total of 17 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized as of Monday and there are currently 25.

Today's cases — which make 236 confirmed so far this week — were reported after laboratories processed 377 samples with a test-positivity rate of 10.6 percent. 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. Through the first 20 days of September, it has jumped to 16.3 percent, far outpacing state (3.1 percent) and national (8.1 percent) rates.

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Open Door Breaks Ground on New Arcata Health Center

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2021 at 12:27 PM

A second round of dirt shoveling at the groundbreaking event was done by Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, Open Door Community Health Centers President Tory Starr, Assemblymember Jim Wood, Arcata Mayor Brett Watson, Arcata City Planner Joe Mateer,  Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, former state Assembly and Senate member and former Arcata city council member and Third District Supervisor Wesley Chesbro and Arcata Community Development Director David Loya. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • A second round of dirt shoveling at the groundbreaking event was done by Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer, Open Door Community Health Centers President Tory Starr, Assemblymember Jim Wood, Arcata Mayor Brett Watson, Arcata City Planner Joe Mateer, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, former state Assembly and Senate member and former Arcata city council member and Third District Supervisor Wesley Chesbro and Arcata Community Development Director David Loya.

A host of local officials gathered in a dirt lot on Foster Avenue Tuesday afternoon to get their golden shovels dirty and celebrate the groundbreaking of the state-of-the-art Arcata Community Health Center, which is slated to open in 2023.

Once complete, the 33,000 square-foot facility will use a solar array — and an emergency backup generator — to power 35 exam rooms and a laboratory that will treat an estimated 40,000 patients per year — both adults and children — receiving primary care. The center will consolidate Open Door Community Health Centers’ two existing Arcata clinics — North Country Clinic and Humboldt Open Door Clinic — in a facility that meets “the same standards” as Open Door’s new health centers in Crescent City, Eureka and Fortuna.

An artist's rendering of what the Arcata Community Health Center will look like once complete. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • An artist's rendering of what the Arcata Community Health Center will look like once complete.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

HumCo Records 89th COVID-19 Death, 35 New Cases

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2021 at 4:14 PM

A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.

For the third consecutive day, Public Health is reporting that another Humboldt County resident has died of COVID-19, while also confirming 35 new cases of the virus and two hospitalizations.

The death brings the county's cumulative death toll from the virus to 89, with 36 having come since Aug. 1.

A state database shows 20 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with four under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Today's cases — which make 196 confirmed so far this week — were reported after laboratories processed 289 samples with a test-positivity rate of 12.1 percent. 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. Through the first 20 days of September, it has jumped to 16.7 percent, far outpacing state (2.9 percent) and national (8.1 percent) rates.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

HumCo Records 88th COVID Death, 72 New Cases Reported

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2021 at 3:46 PM

A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.

Another Humboldt County resident has died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while also confirming 72 new cases of the virus and two new hospitalizations, including one of a resident in their 20s.

The death — of a local residents in their 50s — brings the county's cumulative death toll from the virus to 88, with 35 having come since Aug. 1.

A state database shows 20 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Today's cases — which make 161 confirmed so far this week — were reported after laboratories processed 356 samples with a test-positivity rate of 20.2 percent. 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. Through the first 20 days of September, it has jumped to 16.8 percent, far outpacing state (2.9 percent) and national (8.1 percent) rates.

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Monday, September 20, 2021

Public Health Reports Three More COVID-19 Deaths

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2021 at 3:50 PM

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.

Three more Humboldt County residents have died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while also confirming 84 new cases of the virus and two new hospitalizations since Friday's report.

The deaths — of local residents in their 40s and 60s, and another over the age of 80 — bring the county's cumulative death toll from the virus to 87, with 34 coming since Aug. 1.

A state database shows 17 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with three under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Today's cases were reported after laboratories processed 795 samples with a test-positivity rate of 10.6 percent. 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. Through the first 20 days of September, it has jumped to 16.7 percent, far outpacing state (3 percent) and national (8.7 percent) rates.

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Students with Disabilities Across California Stuck in Limbo

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2021 at 8:46 AM

Ellie sits in her room with a behavioral therapist during class time in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. "There is no way to go back with 37 kids in a classroom," Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets, said. "With masks and not being able to communicate very well, and autism, there is just no way we can go back like normal." - PHOTO BY PABLO UNZUETA FOR CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
  • Ellie sits in her room with a behavioral therapist during class time in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. "There is no way to go back with 37 kids in a classroom," Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets, said. "With masks and not being able to communicate very well, and autism, there is just no way we can go back like normal."
The school year at Duarte Unified School District, 20 miles east of Los Angeles, started a month ago, but Brady, Ellie and Jack Fitzgibbons have yet to receive any instruction from their teachers.

The 13-year-old triplets are on the autism spectrum, and their mother Julie Fitzgibbons didn’t feel safe sending them to school because she doubted her kids would keep their masks on all day.

“They struggle with masks. They won’t be able to be in a class with 36 kids wearing masks,” Fitzgibbons said. “Communication is important for autistic kids. They can’t talk with masks.”

But the district has delayed making accommodations for their disabilities through independent study, the only option for remote learning this year. So far, the triplets have lost four weeks of instruction.

Across the state, other parents are being placed in a similar position after more than a year of distance learning during which students with disabilities fell behind disproportionately. Meanwhile, the legislators who designed the recently passed independent study laws say this form of remote learning might not be able to accommodate all students’ needs.

Last year, California’s public schools offered remote instruction through distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers were required to provide “daily live interaction.”

This school year, with vaccines available to adults and children age 12 and older, live, in-person instruction is the expectation. Parents who want to keep their children learning virtually need to apply to their district for independent study, an option predating the pandemic primarily intended for special cases like traveling athletes or child actors.

The situation is even more complicated for parents of students with disabilities. Those parents work with districts to create what’s called an Individualized Education Program for their children. These programs aren’t set up for distance learning.

Hence Julie Fitzgibbons’ dilemma.

At the beginning of the school year, Fitzgibbons asked the district to place her triplets in independent study. The district, however, said virtual instruction was incompatible with the needs of the triplets and the services they require.

Some educators across the state say even if they can provide special education services through independent study, they’re wholly inadequate.

Brady takes a break from doing his schoolwork and watches educational videos on a tablet in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. "There is no way with three kids at home I could have been in all the rooms," Julie Fitzgibbons, who expressed relief with having behavioral therapists at home, said. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Brady takes a break from doing his schoolwork and watches educational videos on a tablet in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. “There is no way with three kids at home I could have been in all the rooms,” Julie Fitzgibbons, who expressed relief with having behavioral therapists at home, said. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets all on the autism spectrum, tries to get her son, Brady, 13,1 to come back to his desk in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. "This has been hard on parents," Fitzgibbons, who had to enroll her kids' in independent study, said. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets all on the autism spectrum, tries to get her son, Brady, 13,1 to come back to his desk in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. “This has been hard on parents,” Fitzgibbons, who had to enroll her kids’ in independent study, said. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

But Fitzgibbons said she was forced to decide between her kids’ safety and academic progress. If she kept her kids at home, she would have to forfeit their special education services like speech therapy, occupational therapy and extra help in the classroom. If she sent them back to campus for in-person instruction, they would be at greater risk of COVID-19.

The district and Fitzgibbons eventually reached a compromise that would allow her kids to get at least some of the services they received last year, which included six hours a day of one-on-one help and an hour a week of speech and occupational therapy. Fitzgibbons declined to provide details about the new agreement because it still needs to be approved by the Duarte Unified school board.

“Special education is so individualized. There are cases where it is an easy fit with independent study,” said District Superintendent Gordon Amerson. “There will be other cases where other options need to be discussed.”

Uneasy returning to campus

In Northern California, Connie Nakano has three children who attend school in the Elk Grove Unified School District, about 15 miles southeast of Sacramento. Her youngest and oldest children, aged 7 and 10, are both on the autism spectrum.

Nakano opted for all of her children to be in independent study this year instead of returning them to campuses. She said she was most concerned about the spread of the Delta variant, unmasked kids sitting together for lunch and quarantines disrupting her children’s learning.

But she said her middle child, who does not have a disability, has had a much easier time in independent study.

“There are some inequities here. Parents are allowed to choose between in-person and online,” Nakano said. “However, those two options don’t translate to students who have disabilities.”

She said Elk Grove Unified denied her request for remote special education services. Nakano said she’s still negotiating with the district. In the meantime, she placed them in independent study so they don’t fall further behind. But so far, her two children on the autism spectrum are already having trouble keeping up with school.

“We’re having to make a choice between services and safety,” Nakano said.

Anne Rigali, director of special education at Elk Grove Unified, said special education has been challenging to merge with independent study. But she said the district is hoping to find creative solutions for all of their students who aren’t ready to return to campus.

“We’re working with the families to see how we can best support their child,” she said. “We’re trying to address each family and hold these conversations.”

Some parents want a return to distance learning

While most parents across the state had a negative experience last school year, both Nakano and Fitzgibbons said distance learning worked for their kids. Last year, Nakano’s children received extra help from teachers’ aides through Zoom. Her kids also got more real-time instruction compared to this year in independent study.

Fitzgibbons said her school provided therapists who worked remotely with her triplets.

“We’re worried we’re gonna lose our service providers and our time slots,” she said. “These people have worked with our kids for 20 months now. Our kids did really well with distance learning.”

Jack watches a video related to his schoolwork in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. "There is no way to go back with 37 kids in a classroom," Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets, said. "With masks and not being able to communicate very well, and autism, there is just no way we can go back like normal." Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Jack watches a video related to his schoolwork in Monrovia, on Sept. 15, 2021. “There is no way to go back with 37 kids in a classroom,” Julie Fitzgibbons, the mother of triplets, said. “With masks and not being able to communicate very well, and autism, there is just no way we can go back like normal.” Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

Fitzgibbons is currently going through her family’s insurance to pay for private instructors and therapists while her triplets wait for the district to finalize their agreement for special education services.

In response to questions from CalMatters, California State Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty and Phil Ting issued a joint statement that said special education services can be delivered through independent study.

“However, the student’s (Individualized Education Program) is required to be updated first, to make sure the student is not receiving a lower standard of services,” they said. “There may be a determination in the IEP that the student cannot be served in independent study and get their needs met, and that would be a group discussion.”

They added that a new state guidance to be released as early as this week “will dispel many of the myths that are causing confusion about independent study for families, including the rights of special education students to independent study.”

Special education incompatible with independent study

Meanwhile, school district officials are struggling to reconcile the federal laws that govern special education and the state laws that govern independent study and remote learning. As a result, students with disabilities across California are either waiting to get their special education services or forfeiting them for independent study.

“The legislators put us between a rock and a hard place,” said Patty Metheny, an administrator who oversees special education in multiple school districts in San Bernardino County. “Because those are the only two options, the consequences are great.”

According to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, public schools must offer all students a free appropriate public education by providing any services required to accommodate a disability.

But as the name suggests, independent study requires a degree of independence, and some students aren’t able to work on their own. As a result, certain students with disabilities who aren’t ready to return to campuses might not be receiving a free appropriate public education in independent study.

“It’s very difficult to address all of the goals and needs students have through independent study,” said Amanda Brooke, a deputy superintendent at the Imperial County Office of Education. “We’ve even seen general education students fall behind.”

“There are some inequities here. Parents are allowed to choose between in-person and online. However, those two options don’t translate to students who have disabilities.”

Connie Nakano, Elk Grove Unified parent

The language in the independent study laws don’t specify exactly how many hours a day students must receive real-time, or synchronous, instruction. They only state that students in transitional kindergarten through the third grade must receive daily synchronous instruction. For grades 4 through 12, students must receive weekly real-time instruction.

On the other hand, individualized education plans for students with disabilities contain much more detail. The plans often state the number of hours of specialized instruction or therapy that a student must receive each week.

At the Imperial County Office of Education, special education teacher Jazmin Carrillo said her students are getting between 2 and 3 hours of real-time instruction daily. But even then, she struggles to help them make progress in both their learning and their behaviors.

“I typically am there to help regulate their behaviors. I need to be there in person to show them,” Carrillo said. “Sometimes they just turn their cameras off and that cuts me off from them.”

Nakano said her children are meeting with their teachers for about 30 minutes every day through Zoom.

“It’s a brief check-in,” she said. “It’s not exactly instruction.”

During distance learning last year, her two children on the autism spectrum got more than two hours of real-time instruction every day, Nakano said. While that still doesn’t beat in-person instruction, she’s worried her children on the autism spectrum will fall behind even more if they don’t get the services they need.

“We want to make sure we get them up to speed so they don’t have to repeat a grade,” she said. “For our family, we think about it every day.”

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Public Health Confirms Six Deaths as 'Breakthrough' Cases, One More Death, Four Hospitalizations, 77 New COVID-19 Cases

Posted By on Fri, Sep 17, 2021 at 4:17 PM

Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory staff Paula Moon (left) and Alyssa McCloud catalog incoming tests. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public Health
  • Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory staff Paula Moon (left) and Alyssa McCloud catalog incoming tests.
Humboldt County Public Health has confirmed 77 new COVID-19 cases, four hospitalizations of one person in their 50s, two in their 60s and one over the age of 80. In addition to the hospitalizations, a person in their 60s has died from the virus, marking the third COVID-related death this week.

Public Health officials have identified six additional fully vaccinated individuals who have died from the virus. A total of seven residents have died from post-vaccination or “breakthrough” illness out of the county's 84 total deaths attributed to the virus. Thirty-four people have been hospitalized due to post-vaccine illness out of 368 total hospitalizations.

In today's county COVID update, Health Officer Ian Hoffman stressed the importance of an additional dose of mRNA vaccine for immunocompromised individuals.

“Our local data matches what we know from CDC and CDPH: Fully vaccinated people with severe risk factors and compromised immune systems are at higher risk for being a post-vaccine case, hospitalization or fatality compared to other fully vaccinated people with stronger immune response to vaccine,” Hoffman said. He added that statistics continue to show that unvaccinated cases are younger and are much more likely to be infected, become hospitalized and die from COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated.

Since Sept. 10, Humboldt County has recorded 375 positive cases, bringing the seven-day average case rate to 32.6, meaning that for every 100,000 county residents, about 33 people have tested positive over the last seven days.

Today's confirmed cases bring the county's total to 8,098, with 368 hospitalizations and 84 COVID-19 related deaths.

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

HumCo Records 83rd COVID-19 Death, 37 New Cases

Posted By on Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 3:13 PM

A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test. - PUBLIC HEALTH
  • Public health
  • A Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory employee processes a COVID-19 test.


An 83rd Humboldt County resident has died of COVID-19, Public Health reported this afternoon, while also confirming 37 new cases and two new hospitalizations.

After a state data glitch derailed yesterday's COVID-19 case count, Humboldt County Public Health reported today that it has confirmed 90 new cases of the virus since Monday — making 261 so far this week — with four new hospitalizations.

The new cases — which make 298 so far this week and push the county's cumulative total past 8,000  — were confirmed after laboratories processed 459 samples with a test-positivity rate of 8.1 percent.

The county also announced today that, effective immediately, testing for COVID-19 will be offered at Public Health's vaccine clinics, free of charge.

A state database shows 18 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Last week, Humboldt County Health Officer 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.

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. Through the first 15 days of September, it has jumped to 17.3 percent, far outpacing state (3.4 percent) and national (15 percent) rates.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Public Health Confirms 90 New COVID-19 Cases, Four New Hospitalizations

Posted By on Wed, Sep 15, 2021 at 4:14 PM

PUBLIC HEALTH
  • public health
After a state data glitch derailed yesterday's COVID-19 case count, Humboldt County Public Health reported today that it has confirmed 90 new cases of the virus since Monday — making 261 so far this week — with four new hospitalizations.

The new cases were confirmed after laboratories processed 368 samples with a test-positivity rate of 24.5 percent.

A state database shows 16 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with two under intensive care. The slow decline in hospitalizations — which peaked at 42 Sept. 3 — is welcome news for local hospitals, which had been pushed beyond capacity amid a brutal August that saw 2,000 new cases confirmed, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths.

Last week, Humboldt County Health Officer 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.

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. Through the first 15 days of September, it has jumped to 18.2 percent, far outpacing state (3.5 percent) and national (15 percent) rates.

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