COVID-19 could ‘get out of hand’

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – ​​As COVID-19 cases uptick nationally and in California, Humboldt County is holding in a minimal risk category but its health officer has warned that coronavirus transmission is “easy to get out of hand.”

​During an update at the November 3 Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich reported that after a stretch of minimal new cases, eight were confirmed over the weekend.

​The day of the meeting, seven more cases were confirmed. Twenty more new cases were confirmed by the end of the week, bringing the county’s total to 605. Hospitalizations didn’t increase, however, and the county’s total number remained at 37.

​Humboldt is at the lowest of the state’s four tiers of risk ranking. The county had been in the orange or moderate risk tier but is now in the yellow or minimal risk category.

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​Frankovich said Humboldt is expected to hold in that tier but there’s concern as COVID-19 infections tick upward in other places.

​“I just want to caution people – as the numbers of cases go up in other areas of the country and the state, we get impacted by that as well, particularly through travel,” she said.

​Always watching 

Hearing of the case numbers in the two days prior and those that Frankovich said would imminently be announced, Supervisor Virginia Bass asked whether they’re related to outbreaks.

​Frankovich said that of the eight cases confirmed over the previous weekend, at least two are travel-related, “one or two” are from contacts with infected people and the rest are from unknown sources.

​“We don’t have one large, ongoing outbreak right now and of course we’re always watching for these sporadic cases that come in unrelated to anything else,” she continued.

​There was more discussion on the risks of travel during a Nov. 6 media availability video with Deputy Health Officer Dr. Josh Ennis.

“I know that our county is definitely seeing an uptick as a result of this third wave across the country and a majority of the cases are related to travel to states with lots of disease,” he said when asked about it.

Moving back into the orange moderate risk tier would reinstate restrictions on business and social activity.

​There was discussion about the process of negotiating with the state if a tier change is imminent. The county’s daily case rate per 100,000 residents was 2.8 as of last week and the state’s threshold for a minimal risk ranking in less than one.

​But another metric is testing positivity rate. The county’s is at 1.4 percent, which is within the state’s yellow tier threshold of less than two percent.

​Into prison

Also during the supervisors update, Sheriff Billy Honsal talked about new developments in re-opening the state’s prison system. “I’m happy to report that the state has opened up the intake,” he said.

​Honsal told supervisors the county jail had 30 to 40 inmates that “we had been holding onto for months” despite their state prison sentences. He reported that now that the state’s prison system has “opened up,” 30 inmates were transferred out of county jail.

​“That has a huge relief on our correctional facility and allows us to get more people shuffled around to the areas of the jail that they need to be in,” said Honsal.

​He added that the county’s court system is also “opening up,” with a “huge backlog” of jury trials. He encouraged healthy residents who get jury summonses to respond to them.

​Frankovich said her office has worked with the courts and “robust guidance on safe operation” has been set by the state. She also encouraged people to answer jury duty summonses.

Honsal had also reported that the cause of what the county announced as a ninth COVID-19 death, of a 38-year-old man, still hasn’t been confirmed. He said the results of an autopsy lab report are pending.

​The county has reported a total of 10 COVID-19 deaths.

​Supervisor Steve Madrone noted that local weather will soon shift into a cold, rainy phase, bringing people indoors where coronavirus transmission is more likely.

​He advised people to “double down on precautions.”

​Frankovich said health concerns are intensified by the advance of the flu season. But she added, “If we can hang on through the flu season with the measures we’ve put in place, I think we have a chance of getting through this.”

 

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