Humboldt Marks 10th COVID-Related Death


Humboldt County Public Health reports a tenth resident has died and 26 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed today, making 149 so far this week and 1,163 since the pandemic began. An additional hospitalization was also reported.

According to a news release, the individual was in their 80s and tested positive at their time of death.

The county also reports the outbreak at Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center has "expanded rapidly" since Nov. 25, when routine testing showed a staff member was positive for COVID.

Since then, 54 residents and 16 staff have tested positive for the virus at the 87-bed facility in Eureka. Health officials say more cases are possible.

“A skilled nursing facility outbreak is not only a marker for widespread disease, but it also has potential to reflect back out into the community,” Humboldt County Deputy Health Officer Josh Ennis said in a release, noting the current rate of local community spread is unprecedented.

“We are one community. At this point in the pandemic, actions taken by one of us can affect all of us," he said. "We should all do our part to keep our loved ones healthy.”

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 265 to date in December.

The new COVID cases reported today were confirmed after laboratories processed 485  samples.

The county still remains poise to fall under a regional stay-at-home order from the state after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that regions where available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent will be subject to new restrictions.

As of today, the "Northern California region," which includes Humboldt and 10 other counties, had a combined 27.1 percent available ICU capacity, a slight bump up from yesterday, according to the state.

Regions that dip below 15, which is expected to happen across the board soon, fall under the the new restrictions, which went into effect today in the Greater Sacramento region and earlier this week in the Southern California region and the San Joaquin region, which together encompass a vast swath 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.

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 has a case rate of 34 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents with a test positivity rate of 8.4 percent as of Tuesday, Humboldt has a case rate of 12.3 per 100,000 and a 4 percent positivity rate, an increase in both categories. The numbers, however, trail a week behind the current situation.

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 deluge of positive tests in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday, pushing healthcare capacities on the local, state and national level to the brink.

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, 1,163  Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 54 having been hospitalized at some point in their care (five new hospitalizations were reported since Friday) and 10 confirmed COVID-related fatalities.

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.

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