Public Health Confirms 53 New COVID-19 Cases and Two Deaths

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Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 53 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths today, both residents of Granada Hills Rehabilitation and Wellness Center.

Public Health Officer Ian Hoffman is urging residents to avoid gatherings for New Year's Eve as the county has seen the impacts of Thanksgiving get-togethers and has yet to see the impact of Christmas gatherings.

“We saw a significant increase in local cases after Thanksgiving largely due to travel, and we have yet to see the full impact of holiday travel over the Christmas holiday," Hoffman said adding that individual choices are vital to limiting the impact of the virus. “Please choose to stay home this New Year’s Eve, especially if you’re sick. Find ways to celebrate that avoid crowds and gatherings, and please follow all safety measures, including wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping distance from people you don’t live with.”

Today's cases come after Public Health confirmed 31 yesterday and 61 Monday. Yesterday, the state also lowered Humboldt County from its "widespread" purple risk tier, California's most restrictive, to its "substantial" red tier, which will allow some businesses and organizations to resume limited indoor operations, including restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship. (Read more here.)

But Humboldt County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said in a press release that in many ways data does not support the state's decision.

"Our case rates are the highest they've ever been, and our contact investigation teams are tracking more cases, not fewer," he said. "It's unfortunate that we didn't get to have a conversation with the state before this decision was handed down."

Hoffman, however, did not indicate he intended to keep the stricter purple tier restrictions in place.

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 31.5 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 382 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, 1,731Humboldt County residents have been confirmed to have the virus, with 66 having been hospitalized at some point in their care and 22 confirmed COVID-related fatalities. Seven Humboldt County residents are currently hospitalized, according to the county's dashboard, including three under intensive care.

Nationally, more than 19.4 million people have been confirmed to have the virus, including 199,282 cases confirmed yesterday, with 337,419 deaths, according the Centers for Disease Control. Statewide, 2.2 million people have been confirmed to have the disease, including 31,245 yesterday, with 24,526 COVID-related fatalities.

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.

Dec. 30, 2020 - Two Deaths, 53 New Cases Reported Today
Two county residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19, and 53 new cases were reported today. The total number of county residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 1,731.

Both people who died were in their 80s and residents of the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman expressed his sympathies to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and encouraged everyone in the community to do their part to stop the spread, especially with the New Year’s holiday approaching.

Dr. Hoffman said, “We saw a significant increase in local cases after Thanksgiving largely due to travel, and we have yet to see the full impact of holiday travel over the Christmas holiday.” He added that individual choices are vital to limiting the impact of the virus. “Please choose to stay home this New Year’s Eve, especially if you’re sick. Find ways to celebrate that avoid crowds and gatherings, and please follow all safety measures, including wearing a mask, washing hands and keeping distance from people you don’t live with.”

For more COVID-19 holiday safety tips, go to https://covid19.ca.gov/holidays/.

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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