Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – During a week in which the county once again confirmed over 200 new COVID-19 cases, the next vaccine eligibility category was announced – residents who are 75 years old and older.
The vaccination effort continues as the surging case count is accompanied by increased hospitalizations and a reduction of Humboldt County’s ICU bed availability.
A breakdown of how much vaccine has been administered and who’ll get doses next was explained by Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman at a January 14 online press conference.
The first phase of vaccination, of health care providers, began in mid-December and Hoffman said it’s almost complete. There are about 10,000 health care workers in the county and vaccine doses have been offered to all of them, with 7,300 doses given.
Hoffman said that about 70 percent of health care workers offered the vaccine have accepted it.
A federal and state plan designates people ages 65 and up as being eligible next, which isn’t doable in Humboldt. But there’s enough vaccine to include the 75 years and older age group.
Hoffman said that age group includes 10,000 residents. He added that 12,500 first and second vaccine doses have been shipped to the county to date, with 5,200 first and second doses remaining.
The next phase is underway is administered through a combination of health care providers and clinics. “These things, as I’ve said all along, are subject to change and have to be fluid based on the amount of vaccine that we’re given,” said Hoffman.
He added that federal and state governments are telling the county that vaccine shipments in coming weeks will be greater than in previous weeks. “So we’re scaling up to match that with the needed number of appointments,” he continued.
The county will move from getting 1,000 to 2,000 doses per week to up to 3,000 or 4,000 doses per week, said Hoffman.
Messaging is forthcoming on “when and where you are in line for the vaccine and when it does become your turn, how you can get the vaccine,” he continued.
County Public Health has been operating a mass vaccination clinic that’s been administering 750 doses per week and will step that up to up 1,750 vaccine appointments through an expansion or adding more sites beginning this week.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center and Public Health Vaccination Task Force are “working together to secure locations, identify vaccinators from the health care system or volunteers that we have, to expand,” said Public Health Director Michele Stephens.
The county announced the participation of 21 new volunteer vaccinators last week.
Asked about the future, Hoffman said there isn’t “sufficient evidence” to show that vaccination will prevent the spread of COVID-19. “So someone could get COVID, not be as sick, and still be able to spread it,” he said.
Prevention measures must continue and once case counts decline, “We’ll start to roll back (restrictions) as we’re comfortable,” he continued.
That point could come later this year “if we’re complete optimists,” said Hoffman, adding that some health care professionals believe it could be into next year and some believe measures like mask-wearing will have to continue through “the next several winter seasons.”
Vaccination is ramping up as the county sees escalating weekly case counts. Last week’s 233 confirmations followed the previous week’s 271 new cases and as of Jan. 15, the county’s total number of cases was 2,263.
Eleven people were in hospital care for COVID-19 last week and the county’s ICU bed availability was at 14.3 percent. The northern region’s ICU capacity was at 17.3 percent.
If the regional ICU capacity dips below 15 percent, a state stay at home order is triggered, effecting additional restrictions.
A total of 77 people had been hospitalized as of Jan. 15. There was one more COVID-relate death last week, of an elderly resident of the Granada Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Eureka, bringing the county’s death total to 24.
Last week’s death was the thirteenth related to the Eureka facility.