With the COVID-19 landscape changing minute-by-minute, here's a quick rundown on some of the basics, including what symptoms to look for, whom to call and where to look for more information, as well as what financial assistance is available if the virus impacts a person's business or ability to work.
What to watch for:
According to the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of novel coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, while emergency warning signs that someone needs immediate medical attention include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or an inability to awaken, and bluish lips or face.
What to do 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. St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals have opened tents on their campuses to begin screening patients who have "significant" symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus. The general hours of operation for the tents are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. but that is subject to change.
If you have 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 Humboldt County Public Health office, which has a hotline that can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 445-6200 by residents seeking medical advice or questions about testing. Messages can be left after hours. Other COVID-19 inquiries can be directed to email@example.com or 441-5000.
St. Joseph Health has also set up a virtual assessment tool to help patients gauge risk factors for contracting the illness. It can be found at www.providence.org/patients-and-visitors/coronavirus-advisory. Patients can also go to the screening tents at St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals mentioned above.
Help for seniors:
The Area Agency 1 on Aging is not seeing clients face-to-face "unless absolutely necessary" and the Volunteer Driving Program is only providing rides to "essential medical appointments for current riders," according to the agency. But limited shopping service is still available to current clients and efforts are being made to extend the service to those 65 and older or with chronic health conditions and/or disabilities. While the agency is unable to vet new volunteers for the immediate future, it urges those looking for ways to help to "talk to their older and disabled friends and neighbors to see if they need assistance" with shopping or other needs, or to make a financial contribution to the agency to help cover overtime expenses incurred during this health emergency.
For more information on these or other services, call 442-3763.
Advice for travelers:
The CDC has provided guidelines for people who are returning from travel in high risk areas and within the U.S., which can be found at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html.
When to self-quarantine or self-isolate
Individuals considered to be at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 — those 65 or older and anyone with underlying health issues — are recommended to self-isolate and practice social distancing as much as possible.
Anyone with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 (cough, fever, shortness of breath, etc.), is advised to stay at home, keep a distance from others and practice preventive measures: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html. The CDC recommends anyone who exhibited symptoms but did not get tested to stay home until after these three criteria are met: You've been fever free for at least 72 hours without using fever reducing medicines, other symptoms have improved (cough and shortness of breath, for example), and at least seven days have passed since you first experienced symptoms or three days have passed since the symptoms have dissipated, whichever is longer.
Updates on local testing:
Humboldt health officials announced this week that reports on local testing and results will be updated daily, Monday through Saturday, in the Humboldt Health Alert section of the county's website: www.humboldtgov.org/HumboldtHealthAlert.
With no vaccine, prevention is the best course of action, including:
Constant hand washing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available, covering all surfaces of your hands with the sanitizer and rubbing them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Keep a at least 6 feet away from others, also known as "social distancing."
Stay home as much as possible and avoid non-essential outings, especially when sick.
Loss of work:
Whether due to illness, the need to care for a loved one or a layoff or loss of hours due to the coronavirus, there are state financial programs available, including Paid Family Leave, Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance and Workers' Compensation. Under Gov. Gavin Newsom's executive order, the one-week waiting period has been waived for those who are unemployed and/or disabled as a result of COVID-19.
To help determine which program may apply in specific situations, see the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and Economic Development Department websites for guidance on requirements and what programs are available, and how to apply for benefits at www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/#chart and www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/faqs.htm.
School meals during closure:
With almost every school in Humboldt County closed for a minimum of two weeks, many districts are keeping meal programs operating to help make sure no child goes hungry in the wake of the coronavirus closures, with some offering two meals a day. To find up-to-date information on campus closures and meal pick-up locations, visit the Humboldt County Office of Education website at www.hcoe.org and click on the "COVID-19 Information" link at the top of the page.
Food for People: pantry, programs and needs
The nonprofit incurred devastating damage earlier this month after a city sewer back-up flooded its main building and warehouse in Eureka. This week, Food for People was able to reopen a choice pantry at 2112 Broadway, the former Eureka Chamber of Commerce building, through an agreement with the city.
In response to COVID-19, Food for People is altering distribution methods a bit, trying to provide more drive-thru services and giving people more space as they wait to use the service. While still looking for warehouse and freezer storage, Food for People is asking those who can to make financial donations rather then food. For more information, visit www.foodforpeople.org.
What the state is doing:
The California Department of Public Health has asked all bars, wineries, breweries and pubs to close, and has asked all restaurants to close for seated dining service. They should be open "only to drive-through or other pick-up/delivery options." Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked all people aged 65 and over to stay home, and everyone else to limit non-essential outings while incorporating frequent hand-washing routines. (For the most recent updates from CDPH, visit www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx). On March 16, the California Legislature also passed a bill appropriating $1.1 billion and giving Newsom broad authority to use it to fight the COVID-19 virus. Schools throughout the state have shuttered and seven counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have issued 24/7 shelter-in-place orders to all residents that prohibit non-essential outings.