Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – As business reopening proceeds in Humboldt County, Health Officer Teresa Frankovich continues to advise caution and has also said that the emergence of a coronavirus vaccine is not a certainty.
The risks and benefits of advancing business and social interactions were weighed at a June 9 COVID-19 update to the county’s Board of Supervisors.
The governor’s office had named June 12 as the earliest date that schools, day camps, bars, hotels and other businesses and facilities can reopen.
But the county is only clearing hair care and privately-owned campground openings for now, with hotels, gyms and public campgrounds pending.
Supervisor Rex Bohn noted that the Humboldt Youth Soccer League has cancelled its fall season due to the difficulties of carrying it out while maintaining social distancing and other safety measures.
He questioned the hesitation to advance further while suggesting that coronavirus might be ever-present and unaddressed by vaccine.
“We’re talking about trying to control nature,” said Bohn. “We’re waiting for a vaccine but I’m old enough to remember that we’re still waiting for a vaccine for AIDS.”
He added, “We may never have a vaccine on this and I think we need to understand, at some point we need to get on with what we’re doing in a careful way.”
Bohn encouraged the county to do more of what the state is now allowing.
Frankovich said that the state’s release of standards for June 12 openings does not mean everything on the list should open then.
And she acknowledged the uncertainty of vaccine development.
“I agree we may not have a vaccine,” said Frankovich. “We may, but there may be some other therapeutic as well, there are lots of things in trial.”
The county will “move forward,” she continued, but there will be consequences.
“We’re going to see more cases, we’re going to see more deaths, that’s just a part of moving forward with COVID,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is minimize the impacts and do it sensibly.”
She said county-run campgrounds are chosen to open next because “We’re looking at family units and there’s pretty good, thoughtful guidance from the Governor’s Office on how to operate campgrounds in a safer way.”
Humboldt is now in what Frankovich described as a “sweet spot” of limited new COVID-19 cases, with modest daily counts. As of the day of the meeting, there were 105 confirmed cases, with only 11 logged since May 26.
By June 12, only one additional case was confirmed.
But Frankovich said the county is “not testing as many people as I’d like to” in recent days and a mobile testing center will be visiting various parts of Humboldt.
The county’s number of businesses certified to reopen is about 1,400. As state and county campgrounds wait on the reopening runway, so do hotels – and Supervisor Mike Wilson warned that virus circulation can be introduced as travel into the county increases.
“I want to talk about managing expectations,” he said.
Wilson noted that only one percent of approximately 1,000 residents tested positive for antibodies. “What that shows to me is that we have a community that is still very vulnerable to infection from the outside,” he said.
He wants residents to be aware that if the county sees a “flare-up” of cases, “Some of these restrictions may come back.”
The county’s current Shelter in Place Order allows travel and hotel stays only for essential work purposes.
Frankovich said that may be modified soon. And when Bohn reiterated the community disappointment over the soccer league’s season cancelling, she said, “I’d be very surprised if we don’t have youth sports available for people to participate in in July.”