COVID Deaths, Case Count Continue to Climb


For the third day in a row, Public Health reported the COVID-related death of a Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center resident, the fifth in a week. In addition, another hospitalization and 36 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed.

The individual was in their 60s.

“We’ve been in close contact with the staff at Granada, and have offered our support to them during this very trying time,” Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in a news release.

A total of 69 residents and 24 staff at the facility have tested positive.

The latest numbers are the continuation of a dramatic spike in cases since November, which set a record of 238. Last week saw 217 new cases, far outpacing the previous week's record of 163. To date, December now stands at 459 cases, with 126 of those reported this week alone.

Today's cases were confirmed after 746 samples were processed. Meanwhile, the initial rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has begun, with healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents in the priority tier.
Meanwhile, the county's Joint Information Center is urging 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 awaits when it to fall under a regional stay-at-home order from the state, which occurs when cumulative hospital intensive care unit capacity drops under 15 percent in an assigned regional area.

As of today, the "Northern California region," which includes Humboldt and 10 other counties, had a combined 28.1 percent available ICU capacity, according to the state. Statewide the number is 4.1 percent.

 “I want to caution that while our numbers look good today, things can change very quickly,” Hoffman said. “The county holds a small number of ICU beds, and a change of a few beds means large swings in the percentages. Certainly the statewide numbers should give us all caution.”

Regions that dip below 15, which is expected to happen across the board soon, fall under the the new restrictions currently in place across 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 and critical infrastructure will remain open. The order also temporarily prohibits all non-essential travel.

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 63.9 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents (up from 34) with a test positivity rate of 11.3 percent (up from 8.4) as of today, Humboldt has a case rate 16.1 cases per 100,000 (up from 12.3) and a 4.7 percent positivity rate, also an increase.

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, 1,357 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 61 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 14 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Four residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, with two in the Intensive Care Unit.

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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