In her latest round of answers to questions submitted by local media outlets, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich covers a a fairly wide range of topics. Below we’ve listed the timestamps for each question along with a brief summary of her answers.
0:09: Up front, Dr. Frankovich says that due to privacy laws, she’s unable to give any details on the condition of the three local people (so far) who’ve required hospitalization due to their conditions after contracting COVID-19.
She doesn’t mention it specifically, but this type of info is governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a 1996 law that ensures a wide range of medical information remains private. Dr. Frankovich adds that the county is unaware of any COVID-related fatalities in the county.
0:30: In response to a question about how the county is coordinating with tribal entities, Frankovich said health department officials are working collaboratively with local tribes, communicating, for example, on contact investigations (trying to determine the source of any infections).
“We’re a resource, certainly,” she said.
1:58: Would Dr. Frankovich consider pickup of takeout food essential for people who are capable of preparing meals at home? She notes that the intention of the county’s shelter-at-home ordinance is for people to maintain as much social distancing as possible. That includes trying to plan carefully to minimize trips out, whether it’s shopping or picking up food to go.
But she also notes, “I don’t know everyone’s individual situation in the home,” suggesting that take-out may be to only option for certain folks, including people who are out working in jobs deemed essential.
3:00: Here, Frankovich responds to a question about whether the three county supervisors over the age of 65 should stay at home, per the guidelines in the shelter-in-pace order, rather than showing up to meetings as they did this morning.
Diplomatically, Dr. Frankovich replies that the (unidentified) questioner should ask the supervisors about their personal decisions.
4:00: Regarding when residents should seek COVID-19 testing, Frankovich says people with mild symptoms, including fever, should stay at home until they’ve had three days without a fever, and it’s been at least seven days since the onset of symptoms. Anyone who’s concerned about more severe symptoms should contact their health provider.
5:26: The county’s initial shelter-in-place order would have expired very soon. How long until this threat dissipates? To paraphrase Frankovich’s response, nobody knows. “Now is not the time,” she says.
6:34: The last few COVID-19 case reports have not included a tally of “active” cases. Is the county still keeping track of that, and if so, what are the criteria for moving a case from active to recovered/inactive?
Frankovich says it’s difficult to keep such information up-to-date and accurate, and determining when someone has recovered can be a vague proposition. “We’re looking for something more meaningful,” she says. “We’re working on that internally.”
7:45: What is the county doing to identify at-risk or potentially infected homeless people in our community, and what steps are being taken to isolate/house them?
Frankovich says the county is using guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and the CDC and working with community partners to help homeless people get services, including testing when indicated, shelter while awaiting test results and assistance such as food while sheltering.
“That actually is in place right now, and it’s working really well,” Frankovich says.
The county also has plans for homeless people in high-risk groups, including the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. And for the population as a whole, the county is providing information messaging through signage, plus hand-washing stations and port-a-potties to facilitate care.
9:38: Gov. Newsom recently called for an “exponentially increase” in testing statewide, but Frankovich said the county’s capacity is more a matter of space than personnel. The public health lab is “very well-equipped but very small,” she says.
Still, the county is doing better than most places in the state. We recently surpassed 1,000 tests given, she says. Meanwhile, commercial labs are getting better operationally, and there’s more technology coming along.
11:34: Should the county hire extra help? Well, for one thing, Frankovich says, “microbiologists are in rather short supply in this country.” Plus, as she mentioned, the county is not really looking for additional bodies, given the lab’s space restrictions.