Humboldt County Health Officer Teresa Frankovich, MD, has declared a Local Health Emergency in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in California and beyond.
This action is expected to free up additional resources within the county and increase coordination between local, state and federal authorities working to respond to the outbreak.
Frankovich called the emergency declaration “a timely and important step that will enhance our ability to increase preparedness activities and respond appropriately to any additional COVID-19 cases within the community.”
She noted that while this is an important administrative step to take in light of the rapidly evolving situation throughout the world, it does not reflect a significant change in our own community.
“We currently have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Humboldt County, but we know that is likely to change soon based on what is happening across the state,” Frankovich said. “More cases will mean increased demands not just on Public Health but also on our hospitals, clinics, EMS and other agencies and providers that are such a critical part of every community’s response.”
The emergency declaration will also support the Humboldt County Public Health Laboratory which is now able to begin on-site COVID-19 testing locally.
Although testing capacity at public health labs remains limited at this time, Public Health Lab Manager Jeremy Corrigan said, “It is our understanding that some commercial labs are beginning to offer testing as well, which would increase testing availability for our community.”
Frankovich said providers will be able to make decisions with their patients about testing and route specimens through local public health or commercial labs, depending on the clinical situation, local lab capacity and provider preference.
Local health care providers are being made aware of these options today.
Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services Public Health Director Michele Stephens said the declaration is expected to “open up resources to assist with in-the-moment needs, like staffing and equipment, as well as taking the first step toward potentially recouping costs once the emergency is resolved.”
Per Humboldt County Code 2210-8, the County Health Officer can declare a local health emergency for up to seven days before Board of Supervisors’ authorization is required. The Board of Supervisors must then review and reauthorize the declaration at least every 14 days until the emergency is terminated.
The Board is expected to take up the declaration at its March 17 meeting. Currently, Humboldt County has no known cases of COVID-19.
The individual who was previously confirmed to have contracted the virus has recovered and was released from isolation on Feb. 28, after meeting all conditions for clearance required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A close contact of the individual was released from isolation March 2.
For current information about COVID-19, visit CDC.gov or CDPH.ca.gov. Local information is available 24 hours a day at humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert, or during business hours by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 707-445-6200.
WHEREAS, Humboldt County Code section 2210-8 empowers the County Health Officer to declare a Local Health Emergency for a period up to seven (7) days in the county or any area thereof, including but not limited to an imminent and proximate public health threat of the introduction of any contagious, infectious, or communicable disease, chemical agent, noncommunicable biologic agent, toxin, or radioactive agent; and
WHEREAS, upon ratification by the Board of Supervisors, the Local Health Emergency may be extended beyond seven (7) days and the Board of Supervisors shall review the declaration at least every 14 days until the Local Health Emergency is terminated; and
WHEREAS, a novel coronavirus, COVID-19, causes infectious disease and was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and outcomes have ranged from mild to severe illness, and in some cases death; and
WHEREAS, on January 31, 2020, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the nation’s health care community in responding to COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the virus presents a serious public health threat; and
WHEREAS, Humboldt County had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on February 20, 2020, and the potential of more COVID-19 cases in Humboldt County is an imminent threat; and
WHEREAS, the declaration does not reflect any dramatic change in the health of our community, and this step is being taken to help ensure adequate capacity to address the community transmission phase of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, when we begin seeing increasing numbers of cases it will undoubtedly be accompanied by increased demands on local public health as well as our community partners who are part of the response such as hospitals, clinics, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement and other agencies; and
WHEREAS, it is important to declare a Local Health Emergency because it opens up resources local governments can access to assist with in-the-moment needs, like staffing and equipment resources, as well as recouping associated costs once the emergency is resolved.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY DECLARED AND ORDERED that said Local
Health Emergency shall be deemed to exist throughout said county as prescribed by state law, ordinances, and resolutions of this county, and by the County of Humboldt Emergency Operations Plan, as approved by the Board of Supervisors on 7 April 2015, until its termination as proclaimed by the Board of Supervisors of the County of Humboldt, State of California.
Dated: March 11, 2020