COVID Cases Soar to New Record


Humboldt County Public Health reports 88 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed since Friday, setting the region on course for marking a fourth consecutive week of record-setting numbers, as were five additional hospitalizations.

After confirming 59 cases in October, Humboldt County has seen its COVID-19 caseload spike sharply in recent weeks amid a national and statewide surge. The county confirmed 328 cases last month and has already recorded 205 through the first week in December. Over the past 15 days, the county has confirmed 375 cases as the countywide test-positivity rate has increased.

“We’ve all heard about exponential growth, and we are flirting dangerously with it and could already be there. COVID transmission, like a freight train, has gained a lot of speed and will take weeks to slow down, with the full impact to hospitals yet to be seen.” Deputy Health Office Josh Ennis said in a news release, while urging residents to follow COVID protocols. “Do your part. You may know someone whose life depends on it.”

At the current rate of infection, Humboldt's COVID numbers could double in 31 days.

Since last week, the county has seen a 21 percent increase in cases, with the 20-29 age group accounting for the largest portion at 27.6 percent, followed by the 30-39 age group at 20.3 percent.

"The case doubling time stands at 31 days," the county's release states. "Since the county confirmed its first case on Feb. 20, it has taken 291 days to reach 1,102 cases. At the current rate of infection, it would take an estimated 31 days to add an additional 1,102 cases."

In response to the surge, the Yurok Tribal Council voted to close the Yurok Reservation for at least three weeks.

The new COVID cases reported today were confirmed after laboratories processed 1,125  samples.

Meanwhile, the county remains braced to be put under a regional stay-at-home order from the state, as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that regions where available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent will be subject to the new order.

As of today, the "Northern California region," which includes Humboldt and 10 other counties, had a combined 28.2 percent available ICU capacity, according to the state, although Humboldt alone stands at 15 percent.

Regions that dip below 15, which is expected to happen across the board soon, fall under the the new restrictions, which went into effect at midnight in the Southern California region and the San Joaquin region, which together encompass nearly half of the state.

Where implemented, the order will temporarily close bars, wineries, personal service salons, hair salons and barbershops, while retail stores will be limited to 20 percent capacity and restaurants will be limited to take-out and delivery only. Schools that have a waiver will be allowed to remain open to in-person instruction, he said, and critical infrastructure will remain open. The order will also temporarily prohibit all non-essential travel, Newsom said.

The county's steady escalation of cases puts Humboldt solidly in the state's purple "widespread" risk tier, along with nearly all of California's 58 counties, which had already brought new layers of restrictions on local businesses. New data on case numbers and positivity rates are scheduled to be released tomorrow.

The state of California largely depends on two metrics to determine where a county falls in its tier system: the percentage of COVID-19 tests administered that come back positive over a seven-day period and the average number of new positive cases confirmed per 100,000 in population daily over the course of a week. Both have spiked dramatically in recent weeks.

While the state had a case rate of 30.2 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents with a test positivity rate of 6.4 percent as of Dec. 1, Humboldt has a case rate of 10.7 per 100,000 and a 3.2 percent positivity rate. But those numbers are based on data for the week ending Nov. 25 and the situation has grown worse since then.

As is, Humboldt County's purple status has forced restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship to cease all indoor operations, while also imposing the governor's nighttime stay-at-home order, which requires residents to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. save for essential outings, such as going to work.

Officials have been bracing for what is expected to be a torrent of positive tests in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, pushing healthcare capacities on the local, state and national level to the brink.

The county also continues to grapple with an outbreak at the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness skilled nursing facility, which Public Health announced last week had seen a total of 30 infections — 29 in residents — in the 87-bed facility since a staff member tested positive for the virus Nov. 25.

In response to the local surge, Public Health is changing its contact investigations process to meet the demands of rapidly increasing case counts, a news release states.

To date, 1,102 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus — the county also reported today that a prior reported positive case was a duplicate — with 54 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and nine confirmed COVID-related fatalities. According to a state database, Humboldt County had seven confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of yesterday.

The county is encouraging those who are asymptomatic to sign up for a free COVID test at the OptumServe site in Eureka. Appointments can be made by calling 888-634-1123 or visit Testing is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the week.

The Humboldt County Data Dashboard includes hospitalization rates by age group, death rates by age group and case totals by ZIP code, the latter of which are reported in "a range of 0 to 5 for case count until the area surpasses 5 total cases," according to the county. After that threshold has been reached in a ZIP code, the exact number will be included.

Basics of COVID-19

The California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, state that symptoms of novel coronavirus include cough and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell.
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.

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 [email protected] or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at [email protected] 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 here.

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.

Add a comment