Today Dr. Ian Hoffman, Humboldt County’s health officer, took questions on the state’s “surprise” decision to move Humboldt County down into the COVID red tier, making it one of only four counties in the state in anything less than the highest level of concern — and the only one of those four not also subject to a regional stay-at-home order.

Video above, rough transcript below.


From the Redwood News: “Could you please explain why you disagree with the state’s methodology to move Humboldt County back to the red tier?”

Sure, well, let me talk about the different ways that we look at data. The state CDPH has a methodology that looks at the data with a seven-day lag, plus two more days, because it takes them that long to get the data. So we’re really looking at data that’s nine days old. Here in Humboldt County we get the data directly on a nearly daily basis. So we’re looking at the data in real time and to give you an example, currently our case count is about 100 over what they have at the state.

From the Lost Coast Outpost: “If the county doesn’t agree with the state’s decision to put us in the red tier, the health officer has the authority to keep higher, purple tier restrictions in place with a local order. Why don’t you do that?”

So this is a balancing act that many health officials and health officers have had to walk, this very fine line throughout the course of this pandemic. A health order is one tool in the toolbox and it’s it’s not a delicate one, it’s a very strong one and it’s one that there isn’t much enthusiasm for right now in our community. We need buy-in if anything’s going to change. So regardless of the tier that we’re in, there are things that we can do to keep our community safe.

Businesses that can open may choose not to and they may choose to protect their customers and their staff given the uncertainty around all this and given the uncertainty that we could return to purple tier or regional stay-at-home orders. People may choose to gather but they may choose to keep their household safe by not gathering and churches may decide not to reopen indoor services. We at Public Health have never seen the numbers look worse and what we’re hearing from a lot of the people in the community is that they understand this and they continue to act as if we’re in the purple tier while we’re in the red tier.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: “With Humboldt being in the less restrictive red tier, is there a travel restriction in place between counties which might inhibit non-essential travel and prevent people in other areas of the state from taking a winter break trip to the only county in the state with open restaurants and other venues available to the public?”

So red versus purple tier does not affect the travel restrictions. There is a statewide travel advisory that none of us should be traveling outside of our home area and that applies to all of California and then for the rest of California outside of Northern California, there is a regional Stay-at-Home order which says you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t travel out of your home except for essential work or essential needs in the community.

So currently in Northern California if you were to travel it’s recommended you stay in your county or that you drive no more than two to three hours from your home and that that should really be for essential travel or you know, getting outdoors, going on hikes going to the beaches, those sorts of things are still highly encouraged because we want to stay healthy and active during this time.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: “As for the potential of seeing outside visitors coming to Humboldt in light of these new adjustments to the tier status do you have a concern about Airbnb rentals continuing to operate locally? In regard to visitors during the New Year holiday weekend, what oversight, if any, is there on travel into the county for recreational purposes and vacationing?”

So as I mentioned previously, statewide, county travel advisory, any region that’s in a regional Stay-at-Home order is a part of that order is to stay at home and not travel away from your home and you know, really there’s jurisdictional oversight in each of the jurisdictions that would be in charge of any enforcement of those orders.

From the Redheaded Blackbelt: “What advice would you give to restaurant owners who are questioning the reopening allowance and if it is worthwhile to reopen if only to be shut down again in the next few days considering that planning for food prep, storage, staffing, deliveries, etc. is costly and time-consuming?”

I would strongly caution anyone with a restaurant right now who is planning to to reopen that they should be concerned that this could be reversed. As I’ve mentioned we could, you know, trigger regional Stay-at-Home orders very easily and that goes into effect immediately. In addition if our numbers go up instead of going down the red tier can certainly be turned back into the purple tier, which would limit indoor dining.

From the Times-Standard: “Dr. Hoffman on Tuesday expressed strong disagreement with the state’s decision to move Humboldt County from the purple, widespread COVID risk tier to the less restrictive, red substantial tier. Is the county moving to tier adjudication?”

There is no process for tier adjudication in that direction. The tier adjudication process is for moving to more restrictive tiers.

From KMUD News: Now that Humboldt is in the red tier what can be allowed for indoor shopping and indoor dining?”

So all this can be found on the Blueprint for Safer Economy website. If you have any more questions definitely check that out. But indoor retail goes to 50 percent, indoor dining is allowed at 25 percent in the red tier.

Also from KMUD News: Do you predict Humboldt will move back into the purple tier? What would trigger re-designation?”

Very difficult to say for sure. Again: All along the numbers have looked like they have not been going down locally so we are concerned about that. The thing that would trigger going back into the purple tier would be the state’s numbers going up 15 percent over the next few weeks and I do think that’s likely.