For the fourth consecutive day, Humboldt County Public Health today reported the COVID-19 related death of a Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center resident, the sixth in a little more than a week.
Public Health also reported today that it has confirmed 17 new COVID-19 cases, making 143 since Monday on the heels of a string of record-setting weeks that saw 217 cases confirmed last week. Today's cases bring December's tally to 476, already far surpassing November's then record total of 327.
According to a county press release, 69 Granada residents and 25 staff members have now tested positive for the disease. The resident whose death was announced today was in their 100s.
“What we’re seeing this week at Granada started around the week of Thanksgiving with the first identified cases,” Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in the press release. “Our concern continues for Granada until we know that all residents and staff are safe and recovered from the virus. This could still be another week or more.”
Hoffman went on to urge local residents to do their part to combat COVID-19's spread by masking, physically distancing and avoiding social gatherings.
"These are still our best tools to prevent infections until the vaccine is widely available in the months to come," Hoffman said.
Today's cases were confirmed after 304 samples were processed with a test-positivity rate of 5.6 percent. The county also reported one new hospitalization.
Meanwhile, the initial rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has begun, with the county having received 975 doses and healthcare providers and long-term care facility residents in the priority tier.
The county is still expected 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, in the coming days or weeks.
As of today, the "Northern California region," which includes Humboldt and 10 other counties, had a combined 25.8 percent available ICU capacity (down from 28.1 percent yesterday), 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 in a press release yesterday. “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, 1,374 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 62 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 15 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Six Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including three in the Intensive Care Unit.
Nationally, 16.5 million cases have been confirmed — including 201,776 yesterday — with 302,992 fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control. California, meanwhile, has seen 1.7 million cases confirmed — including 53,711 yesterday — and 21,481 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health.
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 by clicking here or calling (888) 634-1123.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or at (707) 441-5000. Residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing are asked to contact Public Health at email@example.com 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. Find the press release from Public Health copied below.
Dec. 17, 2020 - One Death, 17 New Cases of COVID-19 Reported Today
707-441-5000 ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm Opens in new window
Humboldt County is reporting its 15th COVID-related death today. Seventeen additional cases of the virus also were reported. The total number of county residents who have tested positive now stands at 1,374.
The individual who died was in their 100s and a resident of Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center at the time of death. A total of 69 residents and 25 staff at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19, and six residents have died as of this morning.
Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said this is a tragic reminder of how quickly this virus can spread, especially in congregate living facilities. “What we’re seeing this week at Granada started around the week of Thanksgiving with the first identified cases,” he said. “Our concern continues for Granada until we know that all residents and staff are safe and recovered from the virus. This could still be another week or more.”
Dr. Hoffman went on to urge every community member to do their part in combatting this virus. “Each one of us can do something to prevent further deaths,” he said. “If we wear a mask, physically distance and avoid gathering, the spread will slow in our community. These are still our best tools to prevent infections until the vaccine is widely available in the months to come.”
For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or during business hours by contacting email@example.com or calling 707-441-5000.
Local COVID-19 vaccine information: humboldtgov.org/vaccineinfo,
Humboldt County COVID-19 Data Dashboard: humboldtgov.org/dashboard,
Follow us on Facebook: @HumCoCOVID19,
Twitter: @HumCoCOVID19, and
Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert