Screenshots from Tuesday’s meeting (clockwise from top left): First District Supervisor Rex Bohn, Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson, Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass, Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone.


If people stand in line too long, they can get antsy.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman attempted to hold the line, so to speak, on COVID vaccinations, telling the supes that it’s important to continue focusing on getting shots to people in the qualifying phases of the state’s vaccine rollout even though plenty of non-qualifying residents are finding ways to get vaccinated.

Second District Supervisor Michelle Bushnell said Jerold Phelps Community Hospital in Garberville recently had a large batch of vaccine doses that were made available to residents of all ages, and she encouraged residents to check social media for vaccination opportunities. 

“Even if you’re 20 years old and want it, it’s out there in abundance at certain clinics,” Bushnell said. “I think it’s important we say that.”

Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass said she was able to get vaccinated thanks to a local clinic that had “a huge number of no-shows,” and she was amazed by how many young people she saw there, getting vaccinated. 

Like Bushnell, she encouraged people to call up clinics and get on whatever list they’re able. “It’s worth a shot,” she said. “It’s better to try. I’ve been recommending that to people.”

Hoffman agreed, up to a point. “If you’re interested, get on whatever list you can get on,” he said. But he also pointed out that there are still 65-year-olds in the community who’ve been waiting for months to get vaccinated and have yet to succeed. While the community is “about to turn the corner” into easier availability thanks to increased supplies and new vaccines coming online, Hoffman said it’s important to prioritize the most vulnerable residents.

The rollout is still officially open only to people in Phase 1A (healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents) and Phase 1B (people age 65 and up, and those working in food and agriculture, education and child care or emergency services), plus younger people who are at high risk due to certain health or lifestyle factors. 

Humboldt County’s case rate has leveled off at around six to seven cases per 100,000 residents per day, Hoffman said, which keeps us firmly in the red tier. 

“With continued focus on a slow reopening, we should be on track to reach the orange tier sometime in April as long as we remain cautious,” he added.

There has been a slight increase in the number of vaccines coming into the county. Hoffman said we’re averaging about 5,000 per week, and he expects that figure to keep growing into April and May with more doses of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine becoming available. 

It’s possible that by May, every American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one without having to wait in line, he said. For now, the county is still encouraging residents to fill out the interest form available through the county website. 

Statewide, there’s an ongoing effort to reach people living in zip codes that fall into the bottom 25 percent of California’s Healthy Places Index, which assesses communities based on housing, education, economic and social factors. Hoffman said the state has reached its initial goal of vaccinating 2 million people in those zip codes, and when we reach the next goal of 4 million, the cutoff for counties to qualify for the orange tier will move from a case rate of four per 100,000 residents to six per 100,000. That would allow Humboldt to reach the looser orange tier restrictions sooner.

Hoffman also reminded people that both the CDC and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have offered no recommendations to change your behavior after getting a vaccine. You should continue masking and social distancing and avoid mixing with other households. 

As for youth sports, Hoffman said we’ve been on a “rollercoaster” of rapidly changing guidance from the state. In mid-February CDPH said there should be no spectators at youth sporting events, but in the absence of more specific recommendations, many counties, including Humboldt and Del Norte, developed their own rules. Humboldt health officials decided two parents per kid would be fine. CDPH also announced a ban on youth cheerleading along the sidelines only to rescind the ban days later

The state is still recommending against all non-essential travel, asking that people stay within 120 miles of their homes. Changes to that policy are expected to come next month, Hoffman said.

He stressed the importance of remaining cautious as society starts to open up again. “We’re working hard to balance [the needs of] those who are most vulnerable and those who need to get back to normal,” he said.