County Confirms Two More COVID Deaths


Public Health reports two more Humboldt residents have died — marking three deaths in less than one week — and 64 new COVID-19 cases have been reported since Friday, as local cases continue to surge.

One of those who died was in their 70s and the other was in their 90s. Both were residents of the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka, where 69 residents and 23 staff at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19 to date.

Three new hospitalizations were also reported.

“My heart goes out to the family, friends and caregivers of these people who lived and worked here in Humboldt County and were valued members of our community,” Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in a news release.

Last week saw 217 new cases, far outpacing the previous week's record of 163. With today's numbers, December now stands at 397 cases, surpassing November's record of 238.

Today's cases were confirmed after 1,090 samples were processed.

The county's Joint Information Center urges 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 29 percent available ICU capacity, 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 last week, 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 and in December, Humboldt County has reported a daily average of 22.4 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 7.8 percent.

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.

To date, 1,295 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 59 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 12 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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