Humboldt County Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich and Sheriff William Honsal talk COVID-19 at last night's virtual town hall meeting.
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal announced today that the sheriff’s main office in Eureka will re-open to public access Friday, so people can come in to obtain copies of police reports, get Live Scan fingerprints and access other services.
“Government needs to open up,” Honsal said in a video that was released this afternoon answering reporters’ questions about the local COVID-19 outbreak and the county’s resulting shelter-in-place order. “We need to lead by example.”
Within an hour of the release of the video, Humboldt County Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich announced the issuance of an order that will take effect Friday and make it mandatory for everyone in Humboldt County to wear a facial covering at all times when in any indoor facility other than their home, in any enclosed areas or any outdoor space where individuals are unable to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others at all times. Violations of the order constitute misdemeanor offenses punishable by imprisonment or a fine.
“Facial coverings are meant to protect the public from the user in case the user is infected and not yet displaying symptoms,” the order states. “Facial coverings used in conjunction with physical distancing of at least 6 feet and frequent hand washing may reduce the risk of transmission.”
In a press release announcing the order, Honsal calls the facial covering ordinance a "key step" in reopening the economy while "continuing to protect the members of our community from the virus."
The announcements come after the rate of confirmed infections in Humboldt County has slowed considerably in recent weeks, and currently sits at 52. The county hasn't confirmed a new case since April 15 and has only announced two since April 7.
In the roughly 11-minute video, Honsal pivoted from answering a reporter’s question about whether there’s been a rise in crime locally to speaking about economic pressures.
“There’s tension in the family unit so we are experiencing some of those violent outbursts,” he said, adding that there have been upticks in domestic violence, child abuse and physical altercation calls. “I think as this thing continues to go on, we might see more and more of that and that’s why we hope to have some relief here real soon and get people back to work and to make sure that people do have an avenue to make money for their families, they have the ability to take their kids to a childcare facility and so for people to actually start moving on with their lives.”
Honsal later says, however, that his biggest fear is that once, in the coming weeks, “different phases of our economy” begin “opening up,” people might not maintain social distancing or wear facial coverings and may begin congregating in larger groups, leading to a larger outbreak. (For a rundown of what businesses are deemed essential under the order, click here.)
But at the end of the video, Honsal is asked if there’s anything he’d like to add and he again returns to the subject of loosening restrictions, announcing the sheriff’s main station will be opening Friday, though the courthouse will remain closed, so people will need to be escorted into the building in small groups to conduct business with the sheriff’s office.
He also expressed some frustration that there are businesses currently closed that meet the county’s classification as “essential” under the shelter-in-place ordinance and are allowed to operate.
“I’m really, really hoping that the essential businesses out there — the doctors’ offices, the dentists, the childcare facilities that can abide by the agreement in the order, food distribution, those places that are part of the order open up and let’s start employing our people again so we can get to that next phase, as well,” he said.
The facial covering order does not apply to those under the age of 2, those who have difficulty breathing or cant remove the material without assistance. The press release also reminds community members that medical-grade surgical masks or N95 respirators are in very high demand and should be reserved for healthcare workers. Residents should instead wear cloth coverings, including bandanas, scarves or homemade masks, all of which should be washed frequently.
Frankovich reminded that intent of the facial coverings is not to protect the people wearing them from others' germs but to prevent the wearer from spreading their own germs.
"Your facial covering protects me and my facial covering protects you," she said in the release. "Having everyone use facial coverings will help to make us all safer as we move forward."
See the full press release copied below.
April 21, 2020 - Facial Coverings to Become Mandatory Starting Friday
707-441-5000 ; [email protected] ; Monday-Friday 8am to 7pm ; Saturday 10am to 5pm Opens in new window
The Humboldt County Health Officer has issued a Health Order requiring the use of facial coverings to further manage the spread of COVID-19. The order will be in effect starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 24, and until it is modified or rescinded by the Health Officer.
The Order states people must wear a facial covering before they enter:
Any indoor facility except for their own residence
Any enclosed space
Any outdoor space where individuals are unable to maintain at all times a distance of six feet from others.
“Facial coverings are meant to protect the public from the user in case the user is infected and not yet displaying symptoms,” the order states. “Facial coverings used in conjunction with physical distancing of at least six feet and frequent handwashing may reduce the risk of transmission.” Read the full order here: humboldtgov.org/DocumentCenter/View/85482
Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich said requiring facial coverings in public is a necessary first step as shelter-in-place restrictions are eased and movement increases within our community. “Your facial covering protects me and my facial covering protects you,” she said. “Having everyone using facial coverings will help to make us all safer as we move forward.”
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal said, “This is the key step in reopening our businesses while continuing to protect the members of our community from the virus. Local law enforcement will be actively engaged in educating the public on the importance of facial coverings.”
Facial coverings should not be placed on children under the age of 2, people who have difficulty breathing or anyone who cannot remove the material without assistance.
Community members are asked not to purchase medical grade surgical or N95 respirator masks, which should be reserved for health care workers. Facial coverings should be regularly washed and sanitized, or changed, and wearers are advised to wash their hands after touching or adjusting their facial coverings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these facial covering guidelines:
fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
is secured with ties or ear loops
includes multiple layers of fabric
allows for breathing without restriction
is able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.
Local retailers are offering facial coverings for sale, some of which are listed below. Please call ahead to check availability.
Bubbles – 1031 H St., Arcata – 707-822-3450
North Coast Co-Op – 811 I St., Arcata – 707-822-5947
North Coast Co-Op – 25 Fourth St., Eureka – 707-443-6027
Left in Stitches – 905 I St., Fortuna – 707-617-2540
Organic Grace – 906 Redwood Drive, Garberville – 707-923-1296
River Song Natural Foods – 80 Country Club Drive, Willow Creek – 530-629-3148
NOVID-4Me – www.novid4me.com – Online orders only; Arcata-based business
The CDC provides detailed instructions on ways to create various types of facial coverings using common household items. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
For additional information about COVID-19, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by emailing [email protected] or calling 707-441-5000.