Public Health Again Reports No New COVID-19 Cases, Urges Continued Vigilance

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A look at how COVID-19 has progressed in Humboldt County and how local governments and institutions have responded. - JONATHAN WEBSTER
  • Jonathan Webster
  • A look at how COVID-19 has progressed in Humboldt County and how local governments and institutions have responded.
For the second day in a row — and just the second time since March 23 — Public Health announced that there have been no new positive COVID-19 test results today.

“Sheltering in place and the other social distancing measures that have been so difficult for us all, appear to be having an impact in slowing spread of the virus,” Humboldt County Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich said in a press release. “This is important because our cases of identified community transmission tell us that the virus is circulating within the community. ... It is critically important that people hang in there and remember, especially during the holidays, that observances and celebrations need to occur within the home. Please keep your family, friends and community safe by following shelter-in-place orders.”

The county has reported 50 COVID-19 cases to date, with the majority — 28 — coming in a six day period from March 30 to April 6. But the rate of positive tests has tapered sharply in recent days, with a combined five announced for Sunday and Monday, one on Tuesday and none yesterday and today.

While that's good news, Frankovich made clear in a video responding to local media inquiries yesterday that she still expects Humboldt County's numbers to continue to rise.

"We are nowhere near our peak of cases," she said. "We have had a total of 40 cases identified in our county and confirmed, and we know that case count is going to go up."

Frankovich has been repeatedly asked about county models and what they project regarding when COVID-19 will hit its peak in Humboldt County and how many people may be infected. In yesterday's video, she said she doesn't have faith in any of the modeling done to date because there are just too many variables and unknowns, and the models are being repeatedly retooled as information changes.

"As soon as I have a working number that we have faith in ... we will put that information out there," she said.

One thing surely limiting the efficacy on models is that more testing hasn't been done. To date, 1,290 Humboldt County residents have been tested for the virus but, while the local area has seen more residents tested per capita than many areas of the state and country, capacity has been limited. Public Health, which is able to turn around tests faster than private laboratories for a variety of reasons, has been triaging how to use its limited supply — 450 on hand, as of the latest report — wanting to make sure it maintains tests on hand for those who are gravely ill or at high risk of spreading the virus to others, like healthcare workers or people in skilled nursing facilities, for example. Meanwhile, there are widespread anecdotal reports of people experiencing mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 simply being told by healthcare providers to stay home, isolate and monitor their symptoms, as there is currently no treatment for the disease.

The goal, Frankovich said, is to get to a place where the county can conduct wide "surveillance" testing to determine if asymptomatic people have the virus so it can isolate them and prevent its spread, but testing capacity to do that is not available.

Frankovich and Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal have repeatedly stressed the importance of local residents respecting the letter and spirit of the county's shelter-in-place order, staying in their homes and limiting essential outings, practicing social distancing measures and wearing facial coverings when they do have to leave home. The hope, Frankovich explains, is that these measures will slow Humboldt County's infection rate to the point that the number of active cases at any time — and the number of critically ill patients — does not overrun the local healthcare system, which has very limited capacity.











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, runny nose 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.

See the full press release copied below:

April 9, 2020 - Humboldt County Case Count Remains at 50

No additional positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed today. The total case count has remained at 50 since Tuesday, April 7.

Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich said some other areas of the state are also experiencing a relative slowing in numbers of new cases. “Sheltering in place and the other social distancing measures that have been so difficult for us all, appear to be having an impact in slowing spread of the virus,” she said. “This is important because our cases of identified community transmission tell us that the virus is circulating within the community.”

Frankovich cautioned that individuals assembling who are not normally in contact can suddenly create a cluster of cases within a community. “It is critically important that people hang in there and remember, especially during the holidays, that observances and celebrations need to occur within the home,” she said. “Please keep your family, friends and community safe by following shelter-in-place orders.”

Data available to date indicates the following means of transmission for all Humboldt County cases:

Contact to a Known Case: 23
Travel-Acquired: 20
Community Transmission: 7
Under Investigation: 0
For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by contacting covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.

Notes on patient and demographic data

To protect the identity of people with COVID-19, their specific location of residence will not be disclosed. The Humboldt County Public Health Branch is legally responsible for protecting personal health information, including residence address, specific age, recent travel, the identities and locations of any contacts, the provider of medical treatment, the course of illness and any other information that might identify an individual with or exposed to the virus unless it serves the interests of public health to do so.

Although we understand it is of interest to residents, providing location and demographic information to the general public does nothing to slow the spread of illness. Humboldt County is experiencing untraceable person-to-person transmission, also known as “community spread,” and there is no place that can be considered safe. To reduce your chances of acquiring or spreading COVID-19, avoid travel, wash your hands, keep yourself and your environment clean, follow the shelter-in-place order, and do not leave home for any reason unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.

The following case information is provided daily Monday through Saturday:

New positive cases
Total positive cases to date
Total hospitalizations to date
Total Public Health Lab tests to date
Total commercial lab tests to date
Public Health Lab test capacity, total and daily, and estimated turnaround time
Transmission data
traveler-acquired
contact to known case
community transmission
under investigation
Additional information will be provided each Friday:

Regional data
currently measured by percentage in densely populated area
soon to be represented instead by region after minimum thresholds of positive cases per region have been reached
Gender
Mean age
Test rates and positive test rates relative to the State of California.

Follow us on Facebook: @HumCoCOVID19,
Instagram: @HumCoCOVID19,
Twitter: @HumCoCOVID19, and
Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert

And the testing report:

April 9, 2020
COVID info
Total new positive cases confirmed on April 9: 0

Daily COVID-19 case report for April 9

Total number of positive cases: 50
Total number of hospitalizations: 3
Total number of people tested by Public Health Laboratory: 730

Total number of people tested by all other sources: 560
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health and commercial labs)

The Public Health Laboratory currently has a capacity of approximately 450 tests and can process about 50 samples a day with an approximate turnaround time of 48 to 72 hours.

For the most recent information about COVID-19, visit CDC.gov or CDPH.ca.gov. For local information, visit humboldtgov.org, call 707-441-5000 or email covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us.

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