This morning, Humboldt County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Josh Ennis took a couple of media questions on the quality of various types of facial coverings, COVID care for people who cannot afford it and the possible return of the San Jose State football team.

Video above, rough transcript below.


The North Coast News asks, “Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb talks about the efficacy of cloth face coverings, saying that a cloth face covering can be 10 to 30 percent effective and a mask like an N95 can be upwards of 95 percent effective. He also talks about thickness and material of cloth masks, such as having polyester and cotton in the mask. What are the local implications of mask efficacy in Humboldt County? Should residents be investing in higher quality masks, or are the cloths sufficient?”

This question is getting towards some recent studies that have come out showing that different materials can influence how well a mask performs. And when we look at cloth face coverings compared to procedure masks or surgical masks, compared to N95s, there’s a spectrum.

For cloth masks we know that generally the tighter the weave is on the material, and the more layers you have, and seemingly the more you mix types of material, if you have multi-layered masks, the better they perform. They usually fall short of surgical masks and N95s.

Now for Humboldt County, does that mean everyone should go out and buy surgical masks, N95s? The answer is no. I think the most important point when we talk about facial coverage or masks is that people put on a mask in the appropriate situation — that’s when they’re going indoors, when they can’t maintain social distancing, it really does make sense to wear a mask. Nothing’s ever gonna perform 100 percent — and, case in point, N95 is rated to be 95 percent at a certain size particle, right?

So it does really help slow transmission, it’s not 100 percent, but it it slows it down and so the point is everyone should be wearing a mask in appropriate scenarios.

The Redwood News asks, “Can you talk more about the cost of COVID-19 hospitalizations for patients? What is the cost of treatment? Is it covered by insurance at all? If someone doesn’t have insurance, are they turned away? Who picks up that cost, etc.?”

Public Health is not in the business of running a hospital and balancing the books for hospitals, so I’d really be stepping outside my our area of expertise and commenting on costs of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

I think what I tell the public is that if they’re hospitalized with COVID-19 in our county, our hospitals are delivering good care and they are delivering the treatment that’s appropriate. So that includes Dexamethasone, that includes Remdesivir in appropriate cases.

No one is ever turned away if they have an emergency medical condition. They are protected by EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, and if you have something that requires stabilization and requires treatment, you’re going to get that treatment.

The Redwood News asks, “A press release from HSU mentions the possibility of a potential return of SJSU football to HSU should conditions worsen in Santa Clara County. How would you handle the situation? Do you think a potential return would be viable? If the SJSU football team was to return to HSU? What guidance would you give both institutions? Would Public Health be more involved in the discussion?”

So there’s a lot to this question that brings in factors that we can’t possibly know right now, and brings in situations that we can’t possibly always predict. If there were any kind of discussion about return, we look forward to meaningful conversation with HSU and hope that we can partner with them in making it as safe as possible.