Public Health Confirms 32 New COVID-19 Cases, Marking Another Record Week

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Humboldt County Public Health reported 32 new confirmed COVID-19 cases today, making 181 so far this week, setting a seven-day record for the fourth consecutive week as the local case surge continues.

The announcement comes after Public Health reported the county's 10th COVID-19 related death yesterday amid a case spike that has now seen 297 new cases confirmed this month after a total of 328 in November.

Today's cases were confirmed after 313 samples were processed, with a test-positivity rate of 10.2 percent.

In a press release, the county's Joint Information Center urged locals to get tested, calling it "one of the most helpful things county residents can do for the community at large" because it allows Public Health to catch cases early and limit spread. The state-run OptumServe testing site at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds in Eureka is open seven days a week and no-cost appointments can be made here or by calling (888) 634-1123.

The county still remains poised 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 30.3 percent available ICU capacity, a slight improvement 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.

The county also reported this week that 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.”

To date, 1,195  Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 55 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 10 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. According to a state database, three people are currently hospitalized locally with the disease.

Nationwide, 15 million people have been confirmed to have COVID-19 — including 217,046 new cases yesterday — with 285,351 deaths, as of yesterday, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California, meanwhile, has seen 1.5 million cases confirmed with 20,463 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.

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 lhi.care/covidtesting. 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 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 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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