County Calls 'Red Tier' COVID Status a 'Surprise Decision'

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Humboldt County Public Health announced today that it has confirmed 31 new COVID-19 cases. No new deaths or hospitalizations were reported.

However, the county's Joint Information Center's release noted the "surprise decision" by the state to move Humboldt out of the most restrictive purple, or "widespread" COVID risk tier and into the "substantial" ranking, making it just one of four counties not in the top risk zone. (Read more here.)

According to the JIC news release, the state's decision was "based almost exclusively on the county’s Health Equity Metric, which is intended to ensure that no population group within a county is disproportionally impacted by COVID-19."

Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman, the release states, "is in consultation with state and local officials about the next steps for implementing relaxed COVID-19 safety measures."

On the vaccine front, the county reported that 5,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna combined) had been allocated to Humboldt as of Monday.

Meanwhile, the "Northern California" region of the state — which includes Humboldt and 11 other counties — is the only one not yet under a regional stay-at-home order. The order will be triggered throughout the region when its commutative available hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15 percent, as has already occurred in the rest of the state.

As of this morning, the state reported the region had a combined 27.5 percent capacity. If 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.

In Humboldt County, healthcare workers have already said there are emergency room patients who have been waiting for days for transfers out of the area for specialized care because hospitals throughout the state don't have available beds.

Today's Humboldt County cases were confirmed after 269 samples were processed.

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 California has a case rate of 93.1 daily cases confirmed per 100,000 residents (up from 80.7) with a test positivity rate of 14.5 percent (up from 13.3) in data released today, Humboldt has a case rate of 14 cases per 100,000 (down from 18.5 last week) and a 4 percent positivity rate, also a decrease.

To date, 1,678 Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 66 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 20 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Seven Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including one under intensive care.

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 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. Find the press release from Public Health copied below.

A total of 1,678 Humboldt County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, after 31 additional cases were reported today. The California Department of Public Health today reassigned Humboldt County to the “Red” or Substantial tier under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” a surprise decision based almost exclusively on the county’s Health Equity Metric, which is intended to ensure that no population group within a county is disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman is in consultation with state and local officials about the next steps for implementing relaxed COVID-19 safety measures. The Joint Information Center will make additional information available later today. 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 covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.

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