Courtesy of Humboldt County Joint Information Center

On Friday April 24, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services started construction of a 100-bed alternative care site at Redwood Acres Fairground. The site is being set up “to treat non-critical patients in the event that local hospitals are severely impacted by a COVID-19 surge,” a post on the HumCo COVID Facebook page reads. 

During a forum this past Thursday, Deputy Health Officer Josh Ennis displayed a slide show that estimates Humboldt County’s COVID-19 peak to take place in November or December of this year if current shelter-in-place orders remain the same. According to Ennis’s presentation, the county should expect a surge of about 145 hospital beds, 64 ICU beds, the need for 34 ventilators and a prediction of 28 deaths if current precautions are maintained. 

“If we leave everything in place, this is what we’ll see,” Ennis said.

A November/December surge

After this slide was shown, Lost Coast Outpost Editor Hank Sims asked for Ennis to clarify the slide, stating that it seems a bit confusing on why we should be expecting a surge in cases in eight months, especially because of the recent flatlining of cases.

Ennis essentially said that Humboldt County is not a completely sealed off and closed-loop system. There are people still moving about and outsiders coming and going and because of this, spread is going to continue. 

“We don’t live in a vacuum,” Ennis said. “People are coming in and out, people are moving around still, people are in homes potentially exposing family members…. We don’t have the ability to test everyone we want to test and so there is low-level circulation out in the community.” 

So given the need for more hospital beds and the underlying community transmission still taking place, Ennis said he has been working with local hospitals and the state to build up reserves for when a surge does take place. This new 100-bed alternative care site appears to be one of those needed resources to help prevent a more severe scenario. Ennis said local hospitals are currently working on tripling their capacity to treat for ICU patients as well. 

Public Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich said the current modeling is the best one they have available for now and that county officials will keep an eye on how the actual numbers relate to the model itself. 

Prediction of cases if precautions are lifted May 1

“I think as we move forward we have to keep in mind there are huge consequences if rural areas play out like this,” Dr. Frankovich said in regard to lifting all precautions on May 1 which could increase the number of hospital bed needs to 976, ICU patients to 408 with 251 on ventilators and possibly 188 deaths.

“Again this is the best information we have and we just have to have an understanding that going forward we are going to be navigating the place between those curves and basically trying to conserve lives and never overwhelm our healthcare system.”