In today’s media availability video, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich reiterates some of the information released earlier today, including the fact that while our local case data would typically land us in the state’s red tier, the state moved us to the most-restrictive, purple, tier. That’s because the state’s data doesn’t include the latest numbers, which put Humboldt at a positivity rate of seven percent.
Here’s a rundown of the questions asked in today’s video along with summaries of Frankovich’s responses. Full video above.
The Times-Standard asks, “Where is this trend going in your eyes? Are we going to skyrocket before we turn around?”
The trajectory is a steep climb, Frankovich says. With local efforts to decrease high-risk behavior, it’s still possible to lower infection rates, but it will take all of us.
The Times-Standard asks, “Gov. Newsom last week talked about the curfew’s effect on food service businesses. What are Dr. Frankovich’s thoughts on businesses that keep the back door open for takeout and delivery but lock the front door because of the curfew?”
Restaurants can provide takeout and delivery after 10, because food is essential. Just no inside dining.
The Times-Standard asks, “Given the recent incident at Costco involving a woman not wanting to wear a mask, what are your thoughts on increasing enforcement of mask use?
Enforcement is always a last resort, Frankovich says. By now, people have gotten the message that masks are effective. There’s a scientific consensus on that point.
The North Coast News asks, “In your opinion, what are some of the reasons people are not forthright with information when it comes to contact tracing and case investigations?”
Most people have heard the messaging about what is and isn’t safe, so it’s embarrassing to be caught doing otherwise, Frankovich says. “We really need, again, people to just be forthright.”
The North Coast News asks, “Anticipating that Humboldt will be moving into Purple and places of worship shut for indoor access, what will be the impact on wedding ceremonies that are currently allowed at 25 percent or 100 [people] in the Red Tier? We know wedding ceremonies, funerals and other cultural ceremonies cannot be held indoors in the Purple Tier, and wedding receptions are banned statewide regardless of the tier – but can ceremonies still be held outdoors in some capacity in the widespread tier? How do you advise brides in this ever-evolving atmosphere?”
Places of worship can have ceremonies outdoors, but no receptions are allowed in the purple tier.
The Lost Coast Outpost asks, “Last week you said the county has asked for an expansion of Optum locally. What does that mean? More testing resources? Higher capacity? Has Optum responded to the request?”
Optum previously sent their specimens to a commercial lab. Now they’re being sent to a state lab in Valencia. Turnaround times should be better. Currently Optum is operating five days a week, but expansion, including a mobile site, has been approved, which should significantly expand local capacity. Should be available in early December.
The Lost Coast Outpost asks, “Last month you said that between the county’s in-house public health lab and the new regional testing partnership, you should soon be able to run up to 700 tests per day. Can you give us an update on the status of the regional lab asset? When do you expect it to come online? Are you still optimistic about the turnaround time for test results?”
There’s no start date yet on the regional testing asset, though the turnaround should be around 24-72 hours.
The Redheaded Blackbelt asks, “Can you give us a general update on how testing among our local homeless community has been going now that winter is here and specifically if you can give us an idea of the rate of infection you are seeing in that demographic, and if the case rate has increased recently along with the general spike in cases?”
Getting robust testing in the homeless community is an ongoing challenge, Frankovich says. At this time there have not been any outbreaks detected in that population.
The Redheaded Blackbelt asks, “As a Public Health officer, looking ahead into December and January, do you project a steep curve continuing to trend the way it is currently, or for whatever reason, do you anticipate that the curve will naturally fall flat after we pass the holiday season?”
Epidemiologically, with this rate increase, you’d expect it to continue to increase until the current protective measures have an impact. It can take two to three weeks to see that play out.
The Redheaded Blackbelt asks, “In regard to the Governor’s Project Roomkey, which Humboldt was able to take part in, can you tell us if trailers were utilized — they were available for purchase — and if so, about how many if you know that figure? And then please tell us more about how the program assisted in addressing community transmission in Humboldt.”
That would be a great question for the Department of Health and Human Services, Frankovich says.
The Redheaded Blackbelt asks, “Follow-up re: Project Roomkey: Are you able to share with us which local partners have been involved with supplying isolation hotel rooms via Project Roomkey, such as Motel 6 which California contracted with for the program, locally? Perhaps local housing advocates or homeless services programs like the Eureka Rescue Mission, Betty Kwan Chinn Center, or Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives have been involved?”
The Redwood News asks, “We saw 56 new cases reported since Friday and it’s safe to say locally we are seeing a surge in cases already. With this in mind, are you expecting a surge following the Thanksgiving holiday? If so, what is your message to the community about what they can do to prevent that? And also on the flip side, what people can expect following the holiday?”
See above, but also, if people are gathering for Thanksgiving and afterwards, the resulting cases will emerge over the following weeks. So people shouldn’t do that.
The Redwood News asks, “With the colder winter weather and also the potential move to the purple tier forcing restaurants to only operate outdoors, can you speak more about the safety of restaurants using tents for outdoor dining. Specifically, what kinds of tents are allowed or safe? How enclosed can they be? (i.e., must have a certain number of the sides open, etc.) What is the overall guidance for restaurants when it comes to this?”
Tents need to be open on three sides, Frankovich says.
KMUD News asks, “If placed in the purple tier, what will the restrictions look like in Humboldt County?
KMUD News asks, “Can you describe the current difficulties with contact tracing?”
A good example is if someone has had a party of 100 people, the number of potential contacts is high. If a number of those people show signs of expansion, the branches of contact tracing spread. Multiple small gatherings can have the same impact, taking a tremendous amount of time to investigate.
The North Coast Journal asks, “Is the pattern of small case clusters driving our spiking counts continuing, or have there been any large exposure events/gatherings that are partly responsible for the spike of the last two weeks?”
There really was a 100-person gathering, plus smaller gatherings, Frankovich says. “It’s important for people to just think about the math here,” she adds. More spread means more risk.
The North Coast Journal asks, “You and Dr. Ennis have repeatedly said that local health care workforce could be a limiting factor in the county’s ability to meet a surge that threatens to overwhelm local health care. Can you please provide an update on efforts to build health care capacity, and what, if anything, is being done to make sure they are ready to mobilize when needed?
Nationally we’re seeing enough equipment, but not enough staff to operate it, Frankovich says. Hospitals have been working to increase internal capacity and the county is working to prepare its alternate care site to take overflow of people ready to leave the hospital but not yet ready to go home. There are ongoing conversations with partners about staffing.
The North Coast Journal asks, “Are you giving any thought to imposing local restrictions beyond those the state has handed down at this time?”
Not at this time.