Tuesday, March 24, 2020

SECOND UPDATE: County Announces Fifth COVID-19 Case

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 5:54 PM

COVID-19 testing in the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory. - COURTESY OF THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
  • Courtesy of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services
  • COVID-19 testing in the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory.
SECOND UPDATE:

A fifth person has tested positive for COVID-19, health officials announced, but no further information was immediately released. According to officials, more details about the case will be released tomorrow. Read the full release at the bottom of the story.

UPDATE:

A fourth case of COVID-19 related to the travel group has been confirmed.

“A multistate investigation of possible contacts is currently under way. Symptomatic contacts will be tested and isolated while results are pending,” a release states. “Asymptomatic contacts will be quarantined.”

Read the full release at the end of the story.


PREVIOUS:

Humboldt County Public Health has confirmed a third case of COVID-19 locally, this one in a resident who had recently returned from international travel but not to a country that had been flagged as high risk.

“Really, there is no international travel that can be considered safe right now,” Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich said in a press release, adding that the individual in question had been traveling with a group.

“Health officials are reaching out to all members of the group and conducting a comprehensive investigation of possible contacts,” the press release states. “Symptomatic members of the group will be tested and isolated while results are pending. Asymptomatic travel partners will be quarantined.”

Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal stressed in the release the importance of abiding by the county’s shelter-in-place order and staying home.

The positive test came from one of the two commercial labs — LabCorp and Quest — that are processing local samples along with the local Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory. The recent positive sample was taken locally on March 20, with Public Health notified of the results today.

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Centro del Pueblo Radio Centro Via Access Humboldt

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 5:42 PM

centro_del_pueblo_logo.jpg
En el dia 19 de Marzo del año 2020, el Centro Del Pueblo grabó el programa Radio Centro para residentes hispanos del condado de Humboldt en el estudio de Access Humboldt. El enfoque de programa fue en punto de lo que es el coronavirus, y como residentes pueden responder y cuáles recursos pueden utilizar. Pueden encontrar el video abajo.


También hay un video de consejos por Centro del Pueblo de cómo prevenir el COVID-19.

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Public Health Looking for Info on Passengers from Three Flights

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 3:35 PM

Supplies for testing of COVID-19. - DOUG OAKLEY, COURTESY OF KAISER PERMANENTE
  • Doug Oakley, courtesy of Kaiser Permanente
  • Supplies for testing of COVID-19.

Public Health is asking individuals who flew on three specific flights between March 16 and March 18 to self-isolate due to possible exposure and contact the office if they become ill with COVID-19 related symptoms, which include cough, fever and shortness of breath.

The three flights are: United Flight No. 5827 from Los Angeles to Arcata, Delta Flight No. 4124 from Seattle to Medford and United Flight No. 5555 from San Francisco to Arcata.

“Three recent flights may represent a possible exposure for COVID-19 infection, either because an individual on board has become a confirmed case or because a close contact whose test is pending was on board,” a release states.

Officials are recommending against any non-essential travel at this time and anyone who does so is asked to self-isolate for at least 14-days after returning.

“This act of quarantining is critically important during this period, as we have not yet seen clear community transmission,” the release states. “It will help to slow transmission within our community, reduce risk for our most vulnerable residents and will lessen the impact on our health care system. This tool, in addition to sheltering in place, helps everyone to remain healthy.”

Passengers on any of the three flights who are ill or become ill are asked to contact their doctor’s office or the Community Information Line at 441-5000 or by emailing covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us.

For general questions about travel and quarantine, call 441-5000.

Read the Public Health release below:



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Newsom Announces 'Soft Closure' of Parks, Beaches

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 10:15 AM

FILE
  • FILE

Following a sunny weekend when Californians flocked to beaches and hiking trails despite a government order to stay home, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday a “soft closure” of state parks to curb the spread of coronavirus.

While not completely blocking access to natural open spaces, the governor’s action immediately closes parking lots at many state parks and beaches, in an effort to drastically reduce the number of visitors.

“We can’t see what we saw over the weekend happen again,” he said, adding that rangers will step up enforcement to keep people six feet away from each other. A list of park closures is available here.

Newsom also delivered more sober news about how the pandemic is affecting Californians: He said unemployment claims in the state have skyrocketed over the last week — to a new daily average of 106,000, from what had been an average of 2,500.

And he said the state is anticipating a need for far more hospital beds than originally forecast to care for Californians who become sick with COVID-19. California needs 50,000 hospital beds to cope with the epidemic, Newsom said Monday — up from the 20,000 hospital beds he projected last week.


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Public Health Officer Urges Vigilance to 'Improve our Odds'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 7:37 AM

Humboldt County Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich stressed the importance of social distancing and sheltering in place in a video sent to local media Monday afternoon, even as the county Public Health lab reported no new cases of the COVID-19 virus.

“The whole point of us all making this sacrifice is it improves our odds,” Frankovich said. “It’s critically important that people adhere to social distancing.”

JONATHAN WEBSTER
  • Jonathan Webster
The Public Health lab reported late yesterday afternoon that it had processed seven additional tests since Saturday and none came back positive. To date, the department has released the results of 116 tests — 110 run in-house at the lab and six run by the CDC. Of those, two have come back positive: one last month of a resident who had traveled to China and has since recovered and the other Friday in a resident who had recently traveled to a “high-risk” country.

An unknown number of tests have also been sent out of the area to corporate laboratories — LabCorp and Quest — but the results of those tests have not been made publicly available. Frankovich has said her department will release those results when it receives them, but she doesn’t know when that will be.

“I’m hopeful that we very shortly will be able to present commercial lab testing results daily,” she said Monday.

Frankovich said the second positive patient is doing “well.” Speaking generally, she said that after a positive test public health staff will work to trace the patient’s known contacts to advise them they may have been exposed to the virus and put them in quarantine.

“Obviously, we are not in a time of rampant community transmission,” she said. “Identifying close contacts, notifying them and having those individuals quarantined while they monitor for symptoms. At some point when this infection is widespread, that information is no longer very useful for us. However, right now it is.”

As to how widespread the virus is locally, it’s unknown due to the low number of tests and the fact that some people can carry and spread the coronavirus without having symptoms. Frankovich explained that Public Health is triaging testing to make sure it uses the almost 400 tests it has on hand to test the most vulnerable, those at highest risk and those who’s infection could have the greatest impact. For example, people who have a known contact with a positive case and are symptomatic, those with both symptoms and underlying health issues and those at risk of spreading the disease widely or to a vulnerable population, like healthcare workers or long-term care residents.

Frankovich urged anyone experiencing mild symptoms — including fever, cough, shortness of breath, runny nose — to self isolate until three days after all symptoms subside or seven days after their first onset, whichever is longer. They should not call their health care provider or seek testing, she said, unless they have underlying health issues or the symptoms are more severe. Even once testing is more widely available, Frankovich said the county will still urge "mildly ill" people to stay at home in an effort to conserve medical resources and protect healthcare workers.

While Frankovich said that while only two of 116 tests coming back positive is an “encouraging” sign, it’s simply unknown how prevalent the virus is locally.

“The only way we would know for certain is if we can test everyone at a single point in time,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near a possibility.”

And that makes social distancing and following the provisions of the count’s shelter-in-place order even more vital.

“Part of the reason the social distancing is so important right now is because if there are low levels of circulating virus, the hope is to keep that from expanding throughout the community,” she said. “This is a pivotal time to do that.”

Statewide as of Monday afternoon, 1,733 cases had been confirmed, with 27 deaths.


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Monday, March 23, 2020

Water Policies Amid COVID-19 Differ Across Humboldt County

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 3:59 PM

STOCK IMAGE BY NICOLE-KOEHLER VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Stock image by Nicole-Koehler via Wikimedia Commons
Water suppliers across the region — from local cities to community service districts — are suspending shutoffs for nonpayment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting widespread business closures.

Local cities that provide the service, including Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad, all have postponed the practice, as have the  McKinleyville Community Services District, Garberville Sanitation District, the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District No. 1 and Del Oro Water Company, which serves Ferndale and Benbow residents, also confirmed there will be no disruption of service for their customers.  

Blue Lake City Manager Amanda Mager wrote in an email to the Journal that the city is “very proactive at working with customers to ensure” a shutoff doesn’t happen and the council is monitoring the fluid situation daily and “will take the necessary legislative actions required to ensure the physical and economic well-being of our community.”

All of the cities and agencies are encouraging customers who can to stay current with their bills but the moratorium terms and timelines differ from one place to another.
For example, the city of Eureka is suspending all shutoffs until further notice, waiving late fees and allowing those behind in their bills to arrange for a payment plan “up to one year from the close of the Emergency Operations period," according to a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, MCSD is going to review its shutoff policy on April 10, according General Manager Gregory P. Orsini, and Rio Dell City Manager Kyle Knop said late bills will “still accrue and eventually must be paid.”

Basics of COVID-19 
The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, state that symptoms of novel coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

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.

St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals have opened tents on their campuses to begin screening patients who have “significant” symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus. The general hours of operation for the tents is 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. but that is subject to change.

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 assess risk factors for contracting the illness, which can be found at www.providence.org/patients-and-visitors/coronavirus-advisory.

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.
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With COVID-19, California's Economy is in Uncharted Territory

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 6:47 AM

A sign on the door at Parkway Lounge in Oakland, California. - ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • A sign on the door at Parkway Lounge in Oakland, California.
Social distancing may be good for public health these days, but it isn’t good for the California economy. As the coronavirus pandemic forces millions of residents to cancel dates and travel plans, retreat from social life to shelter in place, key cogs of the state’s economic engine are grinding to a halt. That’s an unprecedented shock for a modern economy, experts say — one that will test the resilience of California’s decade-long boom and the adequacy of its $18 billion cash reserve.

What we know so far: The coronavirus is almost certainly causing the first pandemic-induced recession of the postwar era. For millions of Californians and their families, that may mean less work, lower income and more financial stress, particularly for those least able to weather the shock: Californians living at or below the poverty line, those without savings or outside financial support and people living on the street.

What we still don’t know: how bad this will get. Never before in the state has so much business activity come to such an immediate and widespread stop at once, the experts say. Policymakers, businesses and regular Califorians are just beginning to grapple with what this all might look like.

“It’s so much larger than anything we’ve encountered before,” said Jesse Rothstein, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. “I think this is going to be larger than the Great Recession. I hope it doesn’t last as long, but the magnitude of the shock is bigger.”

The state’s enormous, diversified economy — fifth largest in the world — isn’t reliant on any one industry. But sunny California’s tourism, hospitality and retail sectors — together providing about one in five jobs, according to state statistics — are proportionately larger here. So are transportation, warehousing and other trade-related industries. All are taking the most immediate financial hit.

And while the tech sector that has driven so much of the state’s economic growth may very well be better equipped to handle — even prosper from — the new housebound economic order, such a dramatic slowdown is likely to leave few sectors unscathed.

“A month ago California was in a situation where we still had one of the strongest economies we’ve ever had,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, which represents major employers in the state. “Now, the underlying analysis on all of this is uncertainty. Nobody knows. We’re in uncharted territory.”

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Newsom, PG&E Strike Deal to End Company's Bankruptcy

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 6:16 AM

PG&E employees work to replace a nearly 100-year-old utility pole in Berkeley last year. - ANNE WERNIKOFF FOR CALMATTERS
  • Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
  • PG&E employees work to replace a nearly 100-year-old utility pole in Berkeley last year.
In the middle of a pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on Pacific Gas and Electric Corp.’s $57.65 billion bankruptcy reorganization plan Friday, after winning shareholder concessions and governance changes that he declared would be “the end of business as usual” for the state’s largest utility.

The company agreed to a number of changes, notably no shareholder dividends for three years and new oversight and enforcement mechanisms to redirect PG&E if it isn’t reaching safety or climate change goals. The utility could be sold if the reorganized company is unable to succeed or has its license revoked by state regulators for failing to meet safety improvements. The deal marks the end of a yearlong battle with a governor who had threatened a public takeover unless executives changed the corporate culture and investors agreed to take a financial haircut.

PG&E chief executive and president Bill Johnson said the company now hopes to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a timely manner. Under state law, PG&E needs to do so by June 30 to access a $21 billion state fund for compensating victims of wildfires, which is a key component of its financing plan.

“We now look to the California Public Utilities Commission to approve the plan through its established regulatory process, so that we can exit Chapter 11, pay wildfire victims fairly and as soon as possible, and participate in the state’s wildfire fund,” Johnson said in a written statement.


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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Committee Formed to Help Local Businesses Navigate COVID-19 Impacts

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 8:50 AM

A handful of local organizations have banded together to form the COVID Economic Resilience Committee, which will focus on supporting local businesses through the pandemic.
FILE
  • FILE
More specifically, the committee is aimed to coordinate the delivery of "critical information, resources and services to local businesses experiencing economic injury" and is comprised of representatives from the North Coast Small Businesses Development Center, Humboldt County Office of Economic Development, Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, Arcata Economic Development Corporation, Humboldt Made, local chambers of commerce, various government agencies and others.

The committee has already set up a webpage with information and links to various resources. The Humboldt County Office of Emergency Services has also created an economic development branch tasked with collecting and disseminating information to partner agencies and business, as well as documenting COVID-19's local impact.

Find more information in the committee's release copied below:


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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Public Health: 38 More COVID-19 Tests Today All Negative

Posted By on Sat, Mar 21, 2020 at 4:07 PM

COVID-19 testing in the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory. - COURTESY OF THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
  • Courtesy of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services
  • COVID-19 testing in the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory.
The Humboldt County Department of Public Health announced that its lab has tested samples from 38 additional people for COVID-19 since yesterday's report and all came back negative.

Yesterday Humboldt County confirmed its second positive COVID-19 test in someone who had recently traveled to a "high-risk" country, with officials saying there is no evidence of community spread in the case. The first positive case was recorded in the county last month in someone who had recently traveled to China and has since recovered. To date, the results of only 109 local tests have been made public by the Humboldt County Public Health Lab, with 106 negative results, one that came back inconclusive and the two positive tests. An unknown number of samples have also been sent to out-of-area corporate labs for testing as well, but the results of those have not yet been released.

After receiving additional supplies, The Humboldt County Public Health Lab has 400 tests on hand, though Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich told the Journal last week those tests, which have a faster turnaround time than those processed at the corporate labs, are being prioritized for patients who are at risk of becoming gravely ill or who have a high likelihood of increasing spread of the virus, like healthcare workers are people living in skilled nursing facilities.

Humboldt County remains under a shelter in place order announced Thursday. Find specifics on what that order does and doesn't allow here.

For more information on the virus, its symptoms and local resources, click here.

See the full report from Public Health copied below:


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