This afternoon, Dr. Teresa Frankovich, Humboldt County’s public health officer, again took media questions on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today there were a lot of questions on the possible impact of this weekend’s demonstrations on the spread of COVID in the community, and others on the impact of systemic racism on not only the pandemic but on differing health outcomes in general.
Video above, rough (non-verbatim) transcription below, with timestamps.
(0:00) Considering that minorities are victims, in higher numbers, proportionately, of both COVID and police brutality, can you compare the public health crisis of COVID and the public health crisis of structural racism?
They’re part and parcel of the same thing. Structural racism is truly a structural health crisis. It’s a large driver of social determinants of health.
What we’re seeing with COVID — African-Americans death rates twice what you would expect, based on the proportion of the population — highlights the impact of structural racism. It’s incredibly important that that underlying root — structural racism — is address, in order to have an impact on the other poor health outcomes we see.
(1:30) Many national media outlets refer to the murder of unarmed black men as a “pandemic.” Do you agree with that?
I appreciate residents of Humboldt wanting to highlight the injustice that occurred with Mr. Floyd … and obviously we’re referring to a single case.
Whether we’re talking about a “pandemic” is an issue of semantics. Usually when we talk about a “pandemic,” we’re talking about something that occurrs worldwide, and I don’t have enough information to comment on that.
To me, the correct term might be “endemic.” This has been a constant presence in our country for hundreds of years. We see it more these days, perhaps, because we have the technology to see it these days. We are more aware of it.
(3:21) This weekend, with the protests and with groups of people gathering, is Public Health concerned that there may be an increase in cases or increased exposure risk for those in attendance? Do you think that residents did a good job masking and maintaining social distance during demonstrations?
It varies. Some of the images show that some people did a good job masking and maintaining distance, while others did not.
Whenever we bring groups of people together it’s a concern. Being outdoors is an improvement. Masks are an improvement. Maintaining distance is an improvement. but we are always concerned about large gatherings at this point.
Compared to what I’ve seen in some of the national footage, I think we’ve done better here, and I do find that encouraging.
(5:15) Should people who attended the demonstrations schedule a COVID test at Redwood Acres? Is a mask alone enough to limit exposure in such cases?
Everyone should schedule a test at Redwood Acres. It’s an important part of our surveillance. This is one possible venue of exposure, but there are multiple possible exposures that we’re all encountering as we move about the community.
(6:10) Should they be self-quarantining?
With this kind of exposure, as opposed to exposure to a known case, we don’t have people quarantine.
But testing is good for everybody. Most people become positive around four or five days after exposure, and most everyone will become positive within 10 days.
(6:55) Are you expecting a spike because of the protests?
We’ve had many new things happening in the community — casinos and churches opening, these gatherings, gatherings over the holiday weekend. I certainly have concerns about what we might see in the coming weeks. These protests are among those.
(8:10) Now that people have relaxed their shelter-in-place, how much do you expect COVID-19 to grow over the coming weeks?
“That crystal ball would be really good to have.”
But I want to remind everyone: It’s really important to limit the gatherings. Adding those gatherings on top of everything we’re trying to do increases the risk of a sudden increase in cases.
From our own cases, even relatively small groups of people — less than 10, to 20 — can result in a large number of cases.
(9:20) What’s the plan to prevent further spread of the virus if large gatherings continue?
If gatherings continue, we’re left with two things: Counting on people to do surveillance testing in order to identify asymptomatic people, because the earlier we’re able to idetify such cases the better chance we have to control spread of the virus.
The second thing of that is contact investation, quarantining and isolation. But the county’s capacity to do that well is not limitless. It’s difficult to imagine a time when massive numbers of new cases are going to be able to be investigated, quarantined and isolated quickly. This is why it’s important to keep our increase in cases controlled.