Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy is shifting from mass clinics to mobile outreach, with shots being offered at events and “pop up” clinics.
About 41 percent of the county’s population was fully vaccinated as of the end of last week. It marks progress but the pace of vaccination is slowing and the county has more vaccination capacity than demand.
Having vaccinated the ready and willing, the county will move into a new phase of outreach.
It was described at a June 2 news conference. The county is planning to do “more mobile vaccine outreach” and will “decrease our fixed site or brick and mortar mass vaccination model,” said Public Health Director Michele Stephens.
She said transportation is a barrier in some areas of the county. “So we want to bring vaccine to people as much as we possibly can and that’s what we’re going to be doing more of,” she continued.
A statewide reopening and lifting of almost all restrictions is set for June 15 and the summer of 2021 will see the return of a variety of events. Vaccination will be part of them.
“We’ll be at various events in the county – things like auto shows, (Humboldt) Crabs games and farmers markets,” Stephens said.
Sofia Pereira, who heads the county’s Emergency Operations Center, said the details of the mobile and events outreach are being finalized. “This is going to be taking one of our mobile outreach vans and having a presence at community events,” she continued.
County Health Officer Ian Hoffman said event-based vaccination clinics are already being done in other parts of the state. “The model we’ll be following is more like a ‘pop-up’ event, with no need for appointments.”
Making vaccination easy and readily available is part of a larger strategy that includes incentives.
The state’s Vax for the Win program is a vaccine-based lottery with $1.5 million prizes to its winners. There’s also a “$50,000 Fridays” sweepstakes and two million $50 gift cards are being given to those who get shots.
Hoffman said there are also local vaccine-promoting “community partnerships” in development.
“Businesses want to offer incentives as well because it’s good for business, for them, to have more people vaccinated,” he continued. “It makes everyone feel more confident, it makes everybody want to get out there and get back to normal.”
For businesses, the county’s vaccination rate reflects “their consumer confidence,” Hoffman said.
Another incentive to get vaccinated is to protect children. Those less than 12 years old are not cleared for vaccination yet.
“The best way to protect them is to vaccinate everyone else in your family who’s eligible,” said Hoffman. “So if you have an unvaccinated family, you’re putting your children at risk as well.”
The county’s goal is to get at least 70 to 75 percent of the population fully vaccinated, preferably by June 15. “We have a ways to go,” Hoffman acknowledged.
And people are continuing to get infected and sick.
County Public Information Officer Meriah Miracle began the news conference by reporting that the county has the state’s second-highest testing positivity rate at 5.6 percent and the third-highest case rate at 7.9 cases per 100,000 residents.
The week leading up to the conference saw seven more local COVID-19 hospitalizations, she said.
As of the end of last week, the county had more than 10,000 vaccine doses, with no need to order more for this week.
Reopening heightens the importance of testing and on June 4, the county announced that free COVID-19 rapid testing kits are available to businesses and organizations from the California Testing Task Force.
The week ending on June 4 saw the confirmation of 73 more COVID-19 cases, a reduction from previous weeks. But it reflects less testing, as the county’s testing positivity rate for the week was at 8.42 percent, far higher than the statewide rate.
On June 2, the county only did 65 tests and two new cases were confirmed. When the county did 185 tests the day after, 14 cases were confirmed.
There were five more hospitalizations during the week, bringing the county’s total to 191. There were two more deaths, of residents in their 60s and 70s, bringing that total to 45.
The county’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 4,355.