Humboldt County Public Health reported 14 new COVID-19 cases today, making 69 so far this week.
Today's cases were reported after laboratories processed 343 samples with a test-positivity rate of 4 percent, bringing the county's case count to 3,349.
The California Department of Public Health announced today that a benchmark of distributing some 2 million vaccine doses in underserved areas of the state has been met and the threshold for when counties are moved into the most restrictive COVID-19 risk tier has been revised.
According to the county's release, public health officials have "expressed cautious optimism" about Humboldt's ability to not only remain in the red tier but even find its way back down the COVID-19 risk ladder to reach the orange or yellow levels, if residents continue to practice safety measures, get tested and sign up to be vaccinated, when it's their turn.
“Each day we make progress in this pandemic, and we are hopeful that we can build on that effort and get our community and our economy back on track," Public Health Director Michelle Stephens said in a release. "Please continue to wear a face covering, wash your hands regularly, avoid large gatherings and maintain distance.”
Breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals will also be allowed to reopen Saturday for outdoor service in the red, or substantial risk, and purple, or widespread risk, tiers, under new state rules.
"The updated state guidelines require advance reservations, limit patrons to 90 minutes and require an end to on-site consumption at 8 p.m," the county's release states. "Businesses in this sector that serve meals should continue to follow restaurants guidance. Bars remain closed in the red tier. "
When the state of California updated its COVID-19 risk tiers
Tuesday, Humboldt County remained in the red "substantial" tier, meaning restaurants, movie theaters, churches and other organizations are allowed to continue limited indoor operations.
As of Wednesday, the county will no longer include current hospitalization numbers or available local intensive care unit capacity in its dashboard
, saying it would be added back should the county see another surge in hospitalizations.
The state, meanwhile, has announced that beginning April 1 outdoor sports events and live performances will be cleared to reopen with fans and spectators, so long as facial coverings are worn at all times, venues follow tier-based capacity restrictions and provide reserved, assigned seating. (Read more here
Other changes are vaccination distribution and re-opening strategies to prioritize making sure residents of socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of the state have access to vaccines. Read more about the move and how it may benefit Humboldt here
Data shows the county with a seven-day average test-positivity rate of 2.3 percent and a daily case rate of 6.6 per 100,000, both of which dipped slightly from the previous week. California as a whole, meanwhile, has a 2.8 percent test-positivity rate and 8.1 cases per 100,000.
On the vaccine front, the state announced
last week the beginning process of transitioning vaccine distribution to Blue Shield, which has been contracted by the state to streamline and manage the logistics of allocating vaccines to local health departments and providers. The switch will happen in three waves, with Humboldt County, which currently ranks 28th in the state for doses administered per capita, according to a Journal analysis
, falling in the third wave later this month.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine — manufactured by Johnson & Johnson — for emergency use, and a first shipment of 200 doses arrived in Humboldt County this week.
Currently, local residents over the age of 65, healthcare workers, teachers and first responders are eligible to receive their shots, with the first vaccine clinic for the food and ag sector set for next week. The clinics remain by invitation only to control exposure risks and ensure vaccinations are administered according to the county's priority tiers, with residents urged to complete the county's vaccination interest form
to be notified when they are eligible.
Residents are also urged to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines as vaccinations roll out, which could take months.
To date, Humboldt County has confirmed 3,349 cases, with 134 hospitalizations and 34 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.
The county dashboard lists 3,189 people as having "recovered" from the virus locally, though that just means they are no longer contagious and does not account for long-term health impacts, which local healthcare workers have told the Journal
can be substantial, even in previously healthy patients.
The county’s test positivity rate has gone from 3.6 percent in November, to 7.3 percent in December and 9.9 percent in January, before dropping to 6.5 percent in February. Through the first 11 days of March, it dropped to 5.2 percent.
Nationwide, more than 29 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with 527,726 related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control
. In California, 3.5 million cases have been confirmed with 54,891 deaths, according to the Department of Public Health
The state has issued a travel advisory strongly discouraging all non-essential travel and urging anyone returning from non essential, out-of-state travel needs to self-quarantine for a minimum of 10 days upon their return.
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 assessing risk factors for contracting the illness, which can be found 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
Read the county release below:
Fourteen new cases of COVID-19 were reported today, bringing to 3,349 the total number of Humboldt County residents who have tested positive for the virus.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced that 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in underserved areas of the state, triggering a higher threshold for reassignment to the most restrictive tier under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”
Previously, assignment to the “Purple” or Widespread tier required an adjusted case rate of 7 per 100,000 residents. Now that the state has reached the 2-million dose milestone, that number increases to 10 per 100,000. Once an additional 2 million doses have been administered to those areas, thresholds for remaining tiers will adjust as well. Humboldt County is currently assigned to the “Red” or Substantial tier with a case rate of 6.3 per 100,000.
Humboldt County Public Health officials have expressed cautious optimism that the county can remain in the Red tier and improve to Orange or Yellow, but they emphasize it will require the community to continue following safety measures, getting tested and signing up to be vaccinated when an appointment is available.
Public Health Director Michele Stephens said, “Each day we make progress in this pandemic, and we are hopeful that we can build on that effort and get our community and our economy back on track. Please continue to wear a face covering, wash your hands regularly, avoid large gatherings and maintain distance.”
CDPH also relaxed restrictions on various business sectors and activities. Beginning Saturday, March 13, the state is allowing breweries, wineries and distilleries that do not serve meals to reopen outdoors with safety modifications in place in both the Purple and Red tiers.
The updated state guidelines require advance reservations, limit patrons to 90 minutes and require an end to on-site consumption at 8 p.m. Businesses in this sector that serve meals should continue to follow restaurants guidance. Bars remain closed in the Red tier.
View a full list of sector openings, including thresholds for tier assignment, at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/CDPH%20Document%20Library/COVID-19/Dimmer-Framework-September_2020.pdf
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 707-441-5000.
Some Safeway and CVS Pharmacy locations are offering COVID-19 vaccination appointments in partnership with the federal government. Learn who is eligible for vaccination and sign up for an appointment at one of these locations by clicking on the links below.
CVS Pharmacy: https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine?icid=cvs-home-hero1-link2-coronavirus-vaccine.