Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Weekly COVID-19 case counts have more than doubled but Humboldt County’s health officer has confidence in vaccines and has set a goal of removing restrictions by June 15.
The county’s changeable pandemic status was updated by Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman at the April 20 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Hoffman said that as vaccination progresses, planning is underway for a range of spring and summer audience events. The June 15 reopening goal is aligned with the state’s, which bases the hoped-for reopening on vaccine availability and the statewide hospitalization rate.
If guidance is followed on spectator events and private gatherings, “We can keep the momentum of the vaccine effort one step ahead of any resurgence of the virus,” Hoffman told supervisors.
But the virus seemed to be already resurging. Hoffman reported that the county’s daily case counts are up and the week’s case rate was four per 100,000 people. The previous week it had been two per 100,000.
As the week ended, the county reported that the case hikes were largely due to “one or more superspreader events” and the next day, the Eureka Pentecostal Church announced an outbreak amongst its congregation.
Hoffman had warned of that during his supervisors update. “We are seeing an actual increased number of people who are mixing without precautions, leading to a true rise in cases over the past few weeks, following recent holidays, gatherings and private events,” he said.
Rises in cases among youths is a recent trend and Hoffman said that while precautions are followed in schools and in youth sports, “We find those precautions not always being followed off the field or out of the classroom.”
He described vaccination as the inroad to once again doing the things the virus has to this point made risky.
There will be “venue- and site-specific allowances” for fully-vaccinated folk, as they’ll be able to sit together at events, meetings and gatherings with masks on but without social distancing.
Private indoor events are only allowed for the vaccinated or tested, Hoffman continued.
Out-of-state visitors who have gotten vaccinated don’t have to quarantine and can “visit with their family who are low risk, indoors, unmasked and without distancing and can attend local events that are closed to anyone who is visiting from out-of-state and unvaccinated.” he said.
He conjured a scenario of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at Humboldt Crabs games on a “crisp Humboldt evening,” with vaccinated spectators “cheering alongside your friends and neighbors” once again.
Indoor capacities in a “fully-vaccinated section” at live music and other events can increase to 50 percent in the state’s orange or moderate risk tier and 75 percent in the low risk tier. The county was in the orange tier as of last week.
“Vaccination opens many doors,” Hoffman said.
But he added that the county is “still not back to where we were last summer.” He urged everyone who’s eligible for vaccination – which is all adults over 16 years old – to do so “without delay.”
The county was pleased to get 7,500 vaccine doses last week, a peak supply.
But on April 21, the county announced that vaccine uptake is “dwindling” and is now occurring at a “sluggish rate.”
Thousands of vaccine doses were available and about 1,000 were shipped to the San Francisco Bay Area due to the lack of local demand.
The county opened a walk-in vaccination clinic at the Arcata Community Center “to avoid wasting vaccine.”
There were 130 new COVID-19 cases confirmed last week, bringing the county’s total to 3,717.
Significantly, last week saw six COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The county has been averaging about one COVID-19 death per week recently. There was one more death last week, of an elderly resident.
Total hospitalizations were at 143 as of last week. Thirty-eight county residents have died of COVID-19.