Clockwise from top left: Behavioral Health Director Emi Botzler-Rodgers, Joint Information Center spokesperson Meriah Miracle, County Health Officer Ian Hoffman, Vaccine Task Force member Lindsey Mendez and Public Health Director Michele Stephens.
A panel of Humboldt County Public Health officials updated local media on the ongoing COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts in a press conference this morning.
Today’s press conference panel moderated by Joint Information Center spokesperson Meriah Miracle consisted of Behavioral Health Director Emi Botzler-Rodgers, Public Health Director Michele Stephens, County Health Officer Ian Hoffman and Vaccine Task Force member and Family Nurse Practitioner Lindsey Mendez.
-Mendez shared a website where county residents can go to find a vaccine appointment that is different from the state’s My Turn website. Those having trouble finding a vaccine can also go to www.vaccines.gov. She also addressed a shipment delay of vaccines needed for the mobile clinics and mass vaccination clinics that could halt some appointments for later this week. She later clarified that the county would have enough vaccine for tomorrow’s Rio Dell mass vaccination clinic. For those who need to reschedule their second dose, residents can find another appointment on the My Turn Website here or contact the Joint Information Center at 441-5000.
-Mendez also spoke about the Vaccine Task Force’s planning of mobile vaccine clinics that’ll give more access to residents in rural and underserved areas starting with the Mattole Valley and then heading to Southern and then Eastern Humboldt.
-Botzler-Rodgers spoke about the different resources county Behavioral Health created and modified services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Behavioral Health Warmline and streamlining more telehealth services. She also noted that as COVID-19 cases lessen, Behavioral Health is working on ways to adjust services as needed. Since the start of the pandemic, Behavioral Health has seen an uptick in drug use, accidental overdoses and deaths.
-Stephens said that though the county is still in the middle of the pandemic, Public Health is working on scaling back Emergency Operations Center operations, with a target date of July 1, though Vaccine Task Force operations will continue.
-Stephens also mentioned that she hopes to see ongoing increased funding for all Public Health departments from the California Legislature in the near future. Stephens also shared that a coalition titled California Can’t Wait presented a $200 million budget proposal for public health infrastructure and addressing health and equity disparities in communities of color to the Senate budget committee yesterday.
-Hoffman spoke about the county’s increased shift in cases and the recent outbreak at the Eureka Pentecostal Church, adding that it’s important for community members to participate in contact tracing investigations, continue testing, using masks and get the vaccine. Looking forward, Hoffman said, the Public Health protections that were put in place, like stay-at-home orders, will begin to loosen over time.
“The only protections we’ll have left are vaccines and masking,” Hoffman said, adding that in the coming months the FDA will approve vaccines for those 12-15 years old, widening the eligibility for more kids to be vaccinated.