In today’s media availability video, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich addresses testing of HSU dorm students, new lab equipment and plans for larger-scale regional testing. Video above, summaries of Q-&-A below.
(0:12) Daniel Mintz of the Mad River Union, the Independent and KMUD News asks for clarification about statements Frankovich made during her last media availability, specifically her references to “insinuations of racism and flat-out allegations of incompetence” directed at the county’s Public Health Branch by HSU President Dr. Tom Jackson. Was that specifically about what Jackson said in his emails to Frankovich?
Frankovich says she’s had both email exchanges and verbal communications with Jackson, but she doesn’t plan on discussing the matter further. “We’re moving on,” she says.
(0:52) The North Coast Journal asks how many of the hundreds of samples taken from incoming HSU dorm residents have been processed thus far and how long it will take to complete the first round of testing for campus-dwelling HSU students.
The county has received all but about 200 specimens expected from HSU, Frankovich says. The county has reported all info about completed tests, though she can’t give an exact number on how many that is.
(1:50) The North Coast Journal asks about a piece of equipment that Frankovich recently mentioned that could boost the Public Health lab’s daily testing capacity to 300 per day. “Is that equipment up and running, and if not, why not and when do you expect it to be?”
Yes, the new equipment is up and running, Frankovich says, and staff has been working to ramp up testing. “[S]o our numbers are actually increasing significantly and we are now much more in that 200 range but aiming for the 300 [mark],” Frankovich says.
(2:37) North Coast News asks whether the less-intrusive anterior nose swab is less effective and why “we” suddenly switched to that method. Is it because there’s a shortage of the longer swabs?
No, the county has plenty of the nasopharyngeal swabs. Because those longer swabs were the first used, the county has more data on on their sensitivity and specificity, Frankovich says. Newer data suggests that the swabs that only go to the front part of the nose are comparable in terms of accuracy.
“We certainly know they’re more comfortable,” Frankovich says, “and we also know that they can be done as a self collection as opposed to having to have someone do it, and that will actually improve efficiency for what we’re doing in specimen collection. So I think it’s a good move for the county.”
(3:38) North Coast News asks about the implications of the OptumServe site’s contract (through the state) expiring at the end of September and the county’s plans for larger-scale regional testing.
The county has been reluctant to employ Optum after the state contract expires due to the long turnaround times we’ve seen there, Frankovich says. So county officials have been in discussions with local tribes, Del Norte county officials and HSU to develop a fast-turnaround testing solution. More info coming soon, she says.
(4:43) North Coast News asks Frankovich to “review” demographic data such as the age, gender, ethnicity and underlying conditions of local people who’ve contracted COVID-19.
All four deaths from COVID in Humboldt were seniors living in assisted living facilities. Their gender was released when the deaths were announced. “That really is the information that we have at hand for [the] public right now,” Frankovich says.
(5:25) North Coast News asks whether the county has data on who wears masks more — men or women? Also, what age group?
Frankovich says the county doesn’t have such data and doesn’t know how they’d acquire it except to conduct “some random observational surveys.” But her hope, she says, is that everyone will wear them.