Public Health Reports 114 New Cases, 'Vast Majority' Hospitalizations Unvaccinated

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Humboldt County Public Health Microbiologist Annayal Yikum prepares patient samples for the COVID-19 testing process. - SUBMITTED
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  • Humboldt County Public Health Microbiologist Annayal Yikum prepares patient samples for the COVID-19 testing process.

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 114 new COVID-19 cases today — making 428 so far this week — as well as three new hospitalizations.

Today's cases — confirmed after laboratories processed 400 samples with a test-positivity rate of 28.5 percent — make 1,748 so far this month, to go with 73 hospitalizations and 12 deaths as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to circulate widely in the local community.

After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.4 percent in August, far outpacing state (5.8 percent) and national (11.6 percent) rates.

A state database, meanwhile, shows 33 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with 11 under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains a growing concern among health officials, with patients increasingly being transferred out of the county for care or having non-emergency procedures cancelled.

At a press conference today, Health Officer Ian Hoffman said St. Joseph Hospital is in the midst of finalizing an agreement with the state to send a team of nurses to the hospital as an ongoing staffing shortage — coupled with the surge in COVID-19 cases — is limiting capacity to the point that he said six local residents are currently being hospitalized outside the area. Further, Hoffman said, the surge has limited capacity to the point that local hospitals have canceled non-emergency procedures, including heart and cancer surgeries, to preserve staffing.

Hoffman reiterated that vaccinations remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, noting that's reflected in the county's current hospitalization census.

"The vast majority are the unvaccinated," he said.

According to the county's dashboard, 52.4 percent of local residents are now fully vaccinated, with another 6.85 percent having received one dose. While the average daily case rates among fully vaccinated residents have dropped sharply since the county reimplemented a mandatory masking order Aug. 7 — falling from 28 cases per 100,000 residents to 18 — rates among unvaccinated residents remain critically high at 73 per 100,000 residents.

In today's press release, the county notes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory warning that products containing ivermectin, a livestock de-wormer, can cause severe illness when used in humans. and is not authorized or approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. Poison control centers, the press release states, are seeing an uptick in calls reporting ivermectin overdoses or adverse reactions, including gastrointestinal symptoms, low blood pressure, dizziness, loss of balance, seizures, coma or death.

Last week, the county also reported that due to the record-high case volume, it will be making some changes to its dashboard and data collection practices moving forward. Specifically, the county will drop the "cases cleared" section of its dashboard because it's become too time consuming to track all patients through their illnesses, while also discontinuing updates to its "transmission type" section because "data show the virus is widespread in our communities to the extent that it is frequently impossible" to determine who someone was infected.


The recent spike in cases and a corresponding threat to local hospital capacity prompted Health Officer Ian Hoffman to announce a new countywide masking mandate that went into effect Aug. 7.

National, state and local health officials advise that vaccination remains an incredibly safe and effective protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COIVD-19, and the county has a host of no-cost clinics scheduled over the next week. (See the full schedule below.)

The case surge is also impacting local testing capacity, public health reports, with the county's OptumServe site and local pharmacies struggling to meet demand. The county announced today that it is expanding testing capacity locally and will open a new Eureka location to offer no-cost testing "most weekdays." Additionally, OptumServe, which provides no-cost testing seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka, also holds testing clinics fonce a week in McKinleyville, Fortuna, Hoopa and Arcata. Due to high demand, appointments are encouraged and can be made here. (See the full testing schedule included below)

According to a data tracker run by the nonprofit news organization CalMatters, Humboldt's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 23.5 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, now has the worst rate in California, with 22 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including seven under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 82.7 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents. According to the state database, there are no ICU beds available.

Earlier this month, Del Norte County's only hospital, Sutter Coast Hospital, announced it was opening two surge tents to treat patients while canceling all non-emergent procedures in the hospital, and issued a plea to local residents to follow public health recommendations and get vaccinated. (Read more here.)

Public Health is urging residents who have yet to do so to get their COVID-19 vaccines, as it is the only protection against severe illness and death from the virus. This week's Public Health vaccine clinics include Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses. The full schedule includes:

Ferndale – Thursday, Aug. 26, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Petrolia – Friday, Aug. 27, from 10:30 to noon
Mattole Valley Resource Center (167 Sherman St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 27, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Honeydew – Friday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Honeydew Elementary School (1 Wilder Ridge Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Sunday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Redwoods Rural Health Center (101 W. Coast Road) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

To make an appointment in advance or view additional vaccination opportunities and to request help with transportation, visit www.vaccines.gov or www.myturn.ca.gov.

As of today, Humboldt County had confirmed 6,855 cases, with 316 hospitalizations and 65 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths.

The county dashboard listed 5,073 cases as having been "cleared," though that just means they are no longer considered active 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. In March, it dropped to 4.5 percent before inching back up to 5.9 percent in April. In May, it jumped to 8.3 percent but fell back to 5.9 percent in June. In July, it rose to 10.1 percent — the highest at any point in the pandemic.

Nationwide, more than 38.3 million cases have been confirmed with 631,440 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.1 million cases and 64,931 related deaths have been confirmed in California, according to the Department of Public Health.

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 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's Joint Information Center release below:

August 26 COVID Update - 114 New Cases Reported Today
One hundred and fourteen new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Humboldt County today. The total number of residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 6,855. Three new hospitalizations were also reported, including one person in their 40s, one in their 60s and one in their 70s.

To date, Humboldt County Public Health and other approved local vaccinators have administered a total of 144,342 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Additional vaccination data points include:

71,232 county residents are fully vaccinated.
52.4% of the county’s total population, which is estimated at 135,940, is fully vaccinated, and 59.9% of the vaccination-eligible population age 12 and older is fully vaccinated.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory warning of severe illness associated with the use of products containing ivermectin to treat COVID-19. The medication, which is intended as treatment for parasitic infections in humans and livestock, is not authorized or approved for treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Poison control centers are noting an increase in calls reporting overdoses and people experiencing adverse effects, which can include gastrointestinal symptoms, low blood pressure, dizziness, loss of balance, seizures, coma or death. Read more from the CDC at emergency.cdc.gov/han/2021/han00449.asp.

Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are at greater risk of serious, prolonged illness, according to the CDC. Health officials urge these individuals to get an additional dose of mRNA vaccine to make sure they have enough protection against the virus. They should receive an additional dose of the same vaccine at least 28 days after the second dose in the series. This recommendation applies to those receiving treatment for certain cancers, transplant recipients taking immunosuppressive drugs, those on high-dose corticosteroid medication, and those with a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency. For more information, see cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html.

Vaccines are available at Public Health clinics and many local pharmacies. To check availability of a particular vaccine at local pharmacies, visit vaccines.gov, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to find a participating pharmacy nearby. Most local pharmacies allow walk-ins. Walk-ins are also welcome at Public Health clinics, or appointments can be made in advance at MyTurn.ca.gov. For instructions in English or Spanish for how to use My Turn, go to humboldtgov.org/2872/Vaccine-Info.

See the schedule of upcoming Public Health clinics below:

Petrolia – Friday, Aug. 27, from 10:30 a.m. to noon
Mattole Valley Resource Center (167 Sherman St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Friday, Aug. 27, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Honeydew – Friday, Aug. 27, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
Honeydew Elementary School (1 Wilder Ridge Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Ferndale – Saturday, Aug. 28, from noon to 5 p.m.
Humboldt County Fair – main parking lot (1250 Fifth St.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Redway – Sunday, Aug. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Redwoods Rural Health Center (101 W. Coast Road)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Pfizer is authorized for those 12 and older, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for people age 18 and older. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Full protection from vaccinationor Spanish is achieved two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

View the Data Dashboard online at humboldtgov.org/dashboard, or go to humboldtgov.org/DashboardArchives to download today’s data.



For the most recent COVID-19 information, visit cdc.gov or cdph.ca.gov. Local information is available at humboldtgov.org or by contacting covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us or calling 707-441-5000.

Sign up for COVID-19 vaccination: MyTurn.ca.gov
Check for vaccine availability at a local pharmacy: Vaccines.gov
Local COVID-19 vaccine information: humboldtgov.org/VaccineInfo
Humboldt County COVID-19 Data Dashboard: humboldtgov.org/Dashboard
Follow us on Facebook: @HumCoCOVID19
Instagram: @HumCoCOVID19
Twitter: @HumCoCOVID19
Humboldt Health Alert: humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert
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