Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich begins her latest media availability by noting that some of the people fleeing California’s raging wildfires are heading up here to Humboldt County — some camping, others staying with family or friends. 

She advises folks, wherever possible, to have houseguests stay in a separate part of your home with separate bathroom facilities during the two-week incubation period. If that’s not possible, other precautions, such as wearing masks, frequent hand-washing, eating separately and disinfecting common surfaces, can reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

She also addresses a rumor that a local skilled nursing facility has experienced outbreak with many cases, hospitalizations and deaths. “I want to assure people that that is not the case,” Frankovich says. A couple of employees at skilled nursing facilities have tested positive, but subsequent testing has not revealed any infected residents. 

Below is a timestamped summary of today’s Q&A:

(3:15) How often should people be washing their face coverings?

The ideal is to wash a mask after every use, Frankovich says. If you can’t do that, you should at least use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before putting that same mask back on your face. And at minimum you should wash a cloth mask daily.

(4:44) Question from a LoCO reader: “There are conflicting policies at local grocery stores regarding reusable bags and reusable containers for bulk items like oils and grains at the Co-op and ENF. Would you please clarify the current, as of today, state guidelines and county guidelines if they differ for this? I’m ready to mask up and refill my oil bottles but I’m getting told no, and no one can give me the reason or a timetable for that to return. A published rule or note about this might help everyone, customers and businesses, to be on the same page.”

Shared containers pose a risk because people use the handle the same scoop or touch the same surfaces, creating cross-contamination risk, Frankovich says. That’s the rationale for the lack of bulk items these days.

(5:50) The Times-Standard asks about the apparent discrepancy between the county dashboard’s stated rate of cases per 100,000 residents (265) and the rate stated by Frankovich in a recent media availability (60 per 100,000). 

 The 236 figure reflects the number over the whole course of the pandemic while the 60-mark is cases over the past 14 days, Frankovich explains. 

(6:58) What’s the recovery rate in the 0-19 age group?

The county has refrained from listing data about “recovered” cases because there’s no shared definition of that term. “Active cases” reflect confirmed cases that are still in isolation. People whose cases are no longer active “may still have a cough … [or] loss of taste and smell.” But they’re not longer considered infectious. 

(8:27The North Coast News asks, “What should schools do during an outbreak of the coronavirus disease?”

Schools and Public Health will try to prevent that, but if one student tests positive that may result in a classroom being quarantined while the rest of the school continues, Frankovich says. If there are multiple classrooms or chains of transmission involved it may require temporary school closures. 

(9:33The North Coast News asks, “President Trump announced Sunday the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients. What are your thoughts on the treatment?”

There’s very limited data at this point, Frankovich says, and the supply is limited. Controlled studies are needed to understand how it should be used long-term.

(10:48) Redwood News wants to know if Frankovich is concerned about whether returning HSU students are quarantining themselves for 14 days as requested. 

Frankovich says she hopes they’re doing so, just as she hopes county residents are following health and safety protocols. 

(12:02) Have the young people who’ve been contracting COVID-19 had more mild symptoms generally?

Nationally, yes, younger people tend to have lesser symptoms or be asymptomatic, Frankovich says. The mean age for hospitalizations locally has been about 65, though four people under 40 have been hospitalized. 

(13:18) KMUD News asks why Public Health can identify recent positive cases at HSU but not I.D. them by specific local towns and regions.

Public Health isn’t doing that; HSU is, Frankovich says. 

(13:50KMUD News asks, “According to the county’s COVID graphic on race, it states that zero of our Black community members have contracted the virus. Is that true?”

The county doesn’t have self-reported data for race or ethnicity on about half of the confirmed cases thus far, Frankovich says. So there’s no way of knowing for sure.