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In her latest round of media-question-answering, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich says Humboldt County can expect our number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to continue rising. She also answers questions about testing capabilities, experimental drugs and the supply of protective equipment for health care workers.

A timestamped list of questions, along with brief summaries of Frankovich’s answers, can be found below. 

0:00: Will Humboldt County be asking the state for more testing resources?

The county is engaged in an “ongoing conversation” with the state while “trying to maximize our internal capabilities,” Frankovich says. The limiting factors right now are supplies, including the chemical reagents used in testing.

1:17: When will the county be able to offer testing to people who do not meet the CDC-defined criteria?

That’s not the only criteria the county uses, Frankovich says, since staff also prioritizes people in group or hospital settings, such as health care workers. But commercial testing is available for people who really suspect they may have COVID-19. “Surveillance testing” of asymptomatic or mildly ill folks is the goal, “but right now we’re not there,” she says.

2:40: Are health care workers having to reuse their personal protective equipment? 

“Right now, I think, our facilities are in fairly good shape with their PPE,” Frankovich says. But that may not always be the case. Extended use and reuse on the front line can protect the backline. The county is looking at increasing options for safe reuse of, for example, N-95 masks.

3:48: Should residents disinfect items they purchase in stores?

There’s not a lot of good data out there about such risks, but the most important thing, Frankovich says, is for people to wash their hands upon returning home. 

4:55: Has Humboldt County reached the peak of its viral curve?

It’s difficult to come up with a reliable model to answer that question, Frankovich says. “There are just so many unknown factors right now.” Social distancing will decrease the number of people that each person infects, but she says, “We are nowhere near a peak of cases.” Expect our local case count to go up. 

6:48: What’s your opinion on the effectiveness of Remdesivir (an antiviral drug) and hydroxychloroquine (an anti-malarial drug) as treatments for COVID-19?

“I would say every therapy that might be helpful is on the table,” Frankovich says. There will likely be trials locally for the former. There are protocols for use of the latter. Those and other potential treatments are mostly available on a research and academic basis, which requires jumping through some hoops. 

8:03: What prompted the updated list of approved businesses under the shelter-in-place ordinance. 

“The list was really an attempt to clarify some of the grayer areas and to address questions that we had gotten,” Frankovich says. Anyone with questions can call the Joint Information Center at 441.5000. 

8:42: How long will this stay-at-home order be in place?

“I wish there was a really great way right now to predict that,” Frankovich says. 

9:30: Do your models suggest second and third waves of infection? 

It’s important to consider that possibility, which is why social distancing is so important — to prevent the disease from coming back. “People can expect a gradual return to normal over time,” Frankovich says.