Public Health Confirms 119 New COVID-19 Cases, Capping Month of Grim Records

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PUBLIC HEALTH
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Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 119 new COVID-19 cases today — making 237 so far this week — as well as two new hospitalizations.

Today's cases — which were confirmed after laboratories processed 511 samples with a test-positivity rate of 23.3 precent — close a brutal August, which saw more than 2000 new cases locally, eclipsing the combined totals for the post-holiday surge months of December and January. August also saw records of 98 new hospitalizations and 22 deaths, accounting for 30 percent of the total hospitalizations and 29 percent of the total deaths recorded locally through the duration of the 18-month pandemic.

"This month, by far, has been the deadliest of the pandemic as new hospitalizations strain the local healthcare system," Public Health reported.

A state database, meanwhile, shows 37 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally with eight under intensive care, as hospital capacity remains an acute concern among health officials.

One previously reported death has been removed from the county's total, which now sits at 75, the county reported, explaining that further consultation with the individuals medical team determined COVID-19 was not the cause of their death.

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 a record 15.9 percent in August, far outpacing state (4.7 percent) and national (10.6 percent) rates.

At a press conference lat week, 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. 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 16 — rates among unvaccinated residents remain critically high at 83 per 100,000 residents.

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Earlier this month, 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 how 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.

According to a data tracker run by the nonprofit news organization CalMatters, Humboldt's COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 27.9 patients per 100,000 residents.

Del Norte County, meanwhile, once had the worst hospitalization rate in California and still remains among the counties with the highest rates in the state, with 13 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including four under intensive care, out of a population of around 29,000, which is equivalent to 50.3 hospitalized COVID-19 patients per 100,000 residents.

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:

Eureka – Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Thursday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
College of the Redwoods (7351 Tompkins Hill Road) Moderna/Pfizer

McKinleyville – Friday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.) Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Samoa – Friday, Sept. 3, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Humboldt Bay Social Club (900 New Navy Base 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 7,111 cases, with 331 hospitalizations and 75 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 before jumping to 15.9 percent in August.

Nationwide, more than 39.1 million cases have been confirmed with 637,385 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 4.2 million cases and 65,287 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 31, 2021 - 2,001 Cases, 98 Hospitalizations, 22 Deaths Reported in August
One hundred nineteen new cases of COVID-19 have been processed and confirmed in Humboldt County today. The total number of residents who have tested positive for the virus now stands at 7,111. Two new hospitalizations were also reported, including one person in their 30s and another in their 70s.

In the month of August alone, the county has reported a total of 2,001 new cases of COVID-19, 98 hospitalizations and 22 deaths from the virus. This month, by far, has been the deadliest of the pandemic as new hospitalizations strain the local health care system.

Humboldt County Public Health is removing one previously reported death. After further consultation with the individual’s medical team, it was determined that COVID-19 was not the cause of their death. A total of 75 residents have died from the virus.

Containing the rapid spread of the virus requires all members of the community to commit to the health and safety of their friends and neighbors by following local health orders and guidance. The COVID-19 FAQ page (humboldtgov.org/COVIDFAQs) has been updated with practical guidance for common situations, including youth sports settings, at-home COVID-19 testing and best practices for gatherings and events.

While some people who are fully vaccinated do become infected with the virus, health officials widely agree getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent severe outcomes from COVID-19. To build a strong response to the virus, immunocompromised individuals who received mRNA vaccine Moderna or Pfizer are advised to get a third dose of the same vaccine 28 days or more after their second dose.

The Moderna vaccine will be offered on Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Public Health vaccination clinic at College of the Redwoods. Moderna can also be found at many local pharmacies. Check availability at vaccines.gov, or text a ZIP code to 438829 to locate a pharmacy offering vaccines nearby.

Public Health has additional clinics planned this week, and walk-ins are welcome. For those who would like to make an appointment in advance, go to MyTurn.ca.gov. For step-by-step instructions in English or Spanish about how to use My Turn, go to humboldtgov.org/VaccineInfo.

See the schedule of upcoming Public Health clinics below:

Eureka – Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Wharfinger Building (1 Marina Way)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Eureka – Thursday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
College of the Redwoods – Main Parking Lot (7351 Tompkins Hill Road)
Moderna/Pfizer

McKinleyville – Friday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Six Rivers Brewery (1300 Central Ave.)
Pfizer/Johnson & Johnson

Samoa – Friday, Sept. 3, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
Humboldt Bay Social Club (900 New Navy Base 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 vaccination is achieved two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine.

The “Cases Cleared” metric has been removed from the Humboldt County Data Dashboard and homepage counter, as there is currently no mechanism for determining conclusion of illness for any particular individual. As announced in mid-August, changes like these are necessary to allow Public Health to focus their resources on vaccinations and bringing the pandemic to an end.

View the Data Dashboard online at humboldtgov.org/dashboard, or go to humboldtgov.org/DashboardArchives to download data from a previous time.



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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