Tapering Off of Current COVID Surge Could Extend 'Well into Next Year'


While Humboldt County’s latest — and most deadly — COIVD-19 surge appears to be on the downward slope, the descent is likely to be a slow one that could extend “well into next year,” with occasional mini-surges, according to county Health Officer Ian Hoffman.

“Today’s COVID-19 case rates have dropped to the lowest rate they’ve been in the past 2 months. However, case rates remain very high, higher than they were during the peak of the previous surges in winter and spring of this past year,” he said in a written report to the board of supervisors.

If the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” were still being used, Humboldt would fall into the highest transmission level — the purple tier — and under the Centers for Disease Control data tracker, the county continues to be in the “Red, High Transmission” tier, his report states.

“The worst is not over yet and we need to remain vigilante,” Hoffman said at a Sept. 29 news conference.

In the latest round of genomic sequencing, the Delta variant accounted for 98 percent of Humboldt County cases, Hoffman said. It is, he said, “the vastly, predominantly overwhelming variant that is out there now and it has taken over them all.”

A state database shows 19 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with five under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients, then steadily declined over the next couple weeks before creeping back up over the last week.

Hoffman will also give an update at Tuesday's board of supervisors meeting.

Hoffman and other county health officials continue to emphasize the importance of vaccination, with Public Health Director Sofia Pereira saying, “that continues to be our best shot to get through this pandemic together.”

With each successive surge of COVID cases, younger and younger nonvaccinated people are being hospitalized — including many in their 20s and 30s — and dying, including residents in their 40s and 50s, Hoffman said.

That is not the case with the fully vaccinated, with hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus in that group being tied to older age and underlying health conditions, Hoffman said at last week’s news conference.

“We will likely continue to see more hospitalizations and deaths over the coming weeks as those are the most lagging indicators for COVID-19 during a surge in cases,” the health officer wrote in his report for the supervisors. “Based on current COVID-19 national modeling we could see cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue throughout the remainder of 2021, and into the spring of 2022.”

Hoffman said vaccination rates have shown a “”slow but steady rise” in recent weeks with an about 1 percent increase each week in the number of county residents who are fully vaccinated.

He did emphasize that those who are in priority groups for the Pfizer booster should get their shot six months after their second dose, which includes those who 65 and older, those age 18 and older who live in high-risk, long-term care facilities and residents 50-64 with certain medical conditions or risks factors at their jobs (teachers, healthcare workers, grocery store employees, etc.), if they received Pfizer as their original vaccine.

The exceptions are individuals who are immunocompromised, in which case the CDC recommends a third shot of either Moderna or Pfizer 28 days after their second dose.

Meanwhile, approval for vaccinations of children in the 5 to 11 age range is expected to come through at some point this month.

Hoffman said no large vaccination events are planned at this time due to boosters and the anticipated widening eligibility for younger children with the already available vaccination site options believed to be able to handle any increase in demand.

So far this school year, the county has found only one COVID-19 outbreak associated with a classroom. Hoffman and Pereira said Public Health is working districts and campuses to keep schools safe and they are not seeing widespread transmission in classrooms.

“The pandemic has continued to take a toll on everyone in our community in one way or another. Many have lost not only health and life, but income and security,” Hoffman wrote in his report. “We have seen the pandemic tear through our medical system as well as tear at the very fabric of our society. As we continue to learn to live with COVID-19, we need to find ways to heal not only from the viral infections of COVID-19, but from the long-lasting societal divisions that these infections have created in all aspects of our lives in business, government, family, and friends.”

Find Hoffman's written report below:
COVID report by Health Officer Ian Hoffman
Watch video of the news conference below:

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