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Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich today sat down once again to respond to questions from local media. The video is above; summaries are below.
Are locals with mild or moderate symptoms still being told to stay home rather than get tested? Are you worried that by prioritizing the sickest people you may be getting an inaccurate sample of the county population? (0:10)
“We actually have been trying to communicate,” Frankovich says, that everybody, symptoms or no, should come in to get tested, preferably at the Optum site at Redwood Acres. Those with more severe symptoms should contact their care provider first because the county may want to test them at the public health lab.
How many false positives does the county suspect its PCR antibody tests are turning up, and how frequently should people get tested? (0:59)
“I don’t think we’re really getting false positives,” Frankovich says. “Our test is highly sensitive and specific … probably one of the best tests in the country.” As for frequency, the tests will only tell you your status on that specific day. Without symptoms, the county recommends you don’t get tested more than once every couple of weeks.
Does the county rely only on PCR tests to check whether someone has an infection? (1:54)
It can take up to 14 days from the point of infection to show symptoms, and some infected people never get sick, Frankovich says. If a contact of a known case tests negative, the county may re-test them later, and regardless of their results, if someone has symptoms the county will follow them through the quarantine period.
Some people are concerned about a possible mandatory COVID-19 vaccine, whenever that may arrive. Is there any validity to that concern? (2:48)
“Honestly, I don’t see that happening,” Frankovich says. The bigger issue will likely be having enough vaccine.
Considering the spate of cases at Alder Bay, should people think about canceling events such as drive-by birthday parties? (3:24)
Bringing people together increases the risk of transmission, Frankovich says. The closer they are, the higher the risk. The slow reopening of businesses does not mean you should go back to gathering in groups.
What about summer camps and other kids’ activities this summer? Is there a way to do such things safely? (4:25)
It really depends on the specifics, Frankovich says. Weeklong campouts with overnight bunking? Not happening anytime soon. Day camps that can function as child care? That may be possible. Summer sports leagues aren’t currently on the table, but stay tuned.
At what point will infected patients be transferred to the alternate care site? (5:45)
It’s meant to be an overflow unit for local hospitals, Frankovich says. “We’re not seeing those kinds of numbers at this time,” she adds.
An early model predicted that up to 1,000 people could be hospitalized locally if restrictions were lifted May 1. Do you expect to see something like that? (6:38)
“It’s nice to know people are looking at the models,” Frankovich says, but that particular one wasn’t talking about lifting a few restrictions; it was a prediction for what might happen if we lifted them all — no measures in place to contain spread. That’s not the case. The county is taking small steps and will continue monitoring spread.
We’ve heard that local tribal casinos may reopen later this month. What’s your advice to those tribal governments, and what can Public Health do to mitigate the ensuing risks? (7:51)
Frankovich says she appreciates the county government’s relationship with tribal governments, and the plans she’s seen for reopening “have been very thoughtful about how to do so safely.” She adds, however, that this is not the time. “We are far too early in this, and there’s no way to get around the fact that these are mass gatherings,” she says. “It’s an entertainment venue” where people gather in large groups for long periods of time. “I would clearly oppose the opening of casinos right now in our community.”
How many unlinked chains of COVID-19 transmission has Public Health identified over the past 14 days? (9:15)
That’s one of the factors that the county included in its report to the state, seeking permission to move further into State 2 reopening, Frankovich says. A number of cases are currently under investigation. “I would say we have at least three right now,” she says. “It’s possible we have a fourth.” There’s a threshold of three or more unlinked chains to indicate “something going on in the community that we need to pay attention to,” she says, but that’s just one of several indicators. The larger picture is what guides the county’s decisions.