On the one hand, says Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman, the Outpost did an “adequate” job covering the fact that Humboldt County Superior Court employees managed to jump the vaccine line to get their shots out of turn.

On the other: No, Redwood News reporter, he will not answer your question.

But Hoffman does have more to say about the county’s relationship with state public health officials, youth and adult sports, vaccinating food workers and much more — OK, some more — in today’s media availability on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video above, rough transcript below.


From the Redwood News: According to the weekly data that breaks down the age groups, it appears that 52 cases that were originally assigned to the groups 0-9 and 10 to 19 combined have been reassigned to older age groups. Specifically, there were 13 cases reassigned from the 0-9 age group, and 39 cases reassigned from the 10- to 19-year-old age group in the last week. Otherwise, combined the other age groups would have a total of 114 cases reported in the last week. Can you explain this change? Is last week’s data inaccurate?

There does appear that there could be an anomaly there and we’re looking into it. We’ll get back to you when we know more about that.

From the Redwood News: You mentioned last week that the first vaccination clinics for food and agriculture workers will be held this week. How many local employees are included in this group? How long does the County expect it will take to vaccinate this entire group? How can people a part of this group go about getting a vaccination appointment? Can you also provide some more information on the clinics being held this week for this group, specifically the mobile clinic that will be the first of its kind in the County.

So food and agriculture, we’re estimating, is around 10,000 people in Humboldt County. So it’s quite a large group. And just to put into perspective, this is in addition to many other groups that are recently open by CDPH guidelines, the state guidelines. So we know that the eligible pool of people to receive vaccine is much greater than the amount of vaccine that we have. So we are working with groups to target higher risk folks and we’re working towards making more availability in the future as we get more vaccine. So right now really the best way for people in any eligible group is to get on the interest form and so we really encourage the media and everyone to get that information out there about the interest form on the Humboldt County website.

From the Redwood News: There have been reports of more than 50 Humboldt County Superior Court employees that were able to get a vaccine despite not meeting eligibility requirements. Can Public Health confirm that this did happen? And if it did, can you provide any explanation as to how this could happen? Also, what is Public Health’s stance or opinion on the situation?

There was an article last week covering this. I think that did an adequate job and don’t really have anything else to add at this time.

From the North Coast News: A new study found 1/5 of COVID patients show signs of heart damage in blood tests. Since there is more time to see some long-term effects of this disease — what are some of the most disturbing long-term effects seen in Humboldt County? We know disease affects certain age groups differently, how are age groups impacted differently by long-term effects, if at all?

I think the studies are still ongoing and I can’t really speak to the immediate impacts. Those studies will continue over time and we’ll see them as they unfold in the coming months and years, really.

From the North Coast News: At the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday, you said that the county would petition the CDPH to stay in the red tier if it was announced we moved to the purple tier later that day. Has the county always had the ability to do this? Why is now the appropriate time to use this petition process?

We always have the ability to ask for adjudication in a tier process. There are very specific reasons for adjudication, in this case we felt that the data that potentially could have put us into the purple tier was inaccurate, by just a little bit and we had discussions with CDPH leading up to that point, but it turned out that we didn’t have to go down that route because the case counts were just below the threshold of seven on the day of the report.

From the North Coast News: It seems like the county’s attitude towards CDPH guidelines has shifted in recent weeks, being very open about potentially disagreeing with the state’s rules. For example, in reference to the guidance on spectator limits at youth sporting events, Public Health Director Michelle Stevens said in a press release recently, “Humboldt County remains fully supportive of common sense rules and regulations that prevent the spread of COVID-19 but will not endorse a statewide approach that doesn’t truly take into account our local conditions and further harms small businesses that are the backbone of our community.” It sounds like public health is willing to defy CDPH guidance if necessary. Would you agree that public health is becoming more critical of the CDPH, and if so why?

I think we’ve always had a discussion with CDPH and whenever we have new guidelines that are coming out sometimes they’re not specific or they could be left up for interpretation and in this case specifically the age-appropriate supervision was a big debate across the whole state - what does that really mean? We went back and forth with CDPH, we never really landed on a number so we just said let’s use common sense about what we know about COVID, about protecting ourselves, about distancing and masking and trying to limit the size of gatherings. So that’s what we discussed in those regulations. We still fully support CDPH and all of the regulations, but sometimes we might be looking for more clarification.

From the North Coast News: In terms of “fully supporting common sense rules and regulations,” that was mentioned previously, what do you say to business owners that may feel like some past restrictions were not “common sense rules and regulations” and feel that public health didn’t do enough previously to fight such restrictions?

I think that the rules that we’ve been following for the last year have been very common sense. This is a new novel coronavirus that we knew nothing about a year ago going into this and we’ve learned a lot along the way. I think when we first started this and people were talking about masking and some people said ‘no’ some people said ‘yes’, but we finally figured that out. Now that’s obviously a very common sense thing. So there’s always discussion back and forth about what we’re going to put into place and now there’s discussion about what we can take away and what sort of process we’re going to have to unwind this whole thing. We’re having those discussions with people in our county, people across the state, our local elected officials, with business leaders, leaders of the hospital and the medical community. So we’re going to continue that and I think that’s really what we mean when we’re talking about using ‘common sense’ to move forward throughout this process.

From Reporter Daniel Mintz: During your last update to the Board of Supervisors you said there’s been a palpable change in the course of the pandemic. But last month, you warned that the biggest surge yet could happen. Is that warning still relevant?

Yeah I think this is about balance here - cautious optimism with a little bit of skepticism. We definitely feel a change. We’re getting vaccine out there, we’re seeing the case counts go down however they haven’t continued to go down we’ve plateaued. So we want to be cautious. We definitely want to recognize that we need to get back to some semblance of normal. Youth sports, new guidelines around live performances, every day CDPH and the local health jurisdictions are working together to figure out ways we can open up more safely, but it’s a balanced process so we need to be patient and we’re going to constantly watch and vigilantly watch for any re-emergence of the disease the new variants that could also cause a surge.

From the Times-Standard: Did the county cooperate with the Humboldt-Del Norte League on developing the rules for spectators at outdoor prep sports events (only four members of a participant’s household may attend, socially distance, no food in stands, etc…) or were these suggestions from the state?

The state and Humboldt County Public Health have not put any number limits, so we are sticking with age-appropriate supervision and leaving that up to the facilities and the teams to decide what makes sense for them. There is also the live performance guidance that goes into effect April 1st which could be applied to many of these youth sports situations as well. So we encourage anyone who’s in a venue like that to use that sort of performance guidance to guide how they might have spectators at the events.

From the Times-Standard: Is the county working with adult sports organizations (Humboldt Crabs, HSU) on possibly welcoming spectators to their outdoor stands?

Yes, the live performance guidance has been shared with those folks and I encourage them to see what’s feasible given those guidelines and hope that we continue to improve with case counts and get into less restrictive tiers that will allow for more reopening.