A sign posted in the window to the entrance of the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department. | Submitted


The Humboldt County Planning and Building Department is in the midst of a  COVID-19 outbreak that has lasted nearly five weeks.

The office at 3015 H Street in Eureka remains open, though a sign posted on the door warns members of the public in bright red letters that the facility has met the Public Health branch’s threshold for an outbreak. 

In accordance with Cal/OSHA guidelines, COVID-19 outbreaks are declared when a cluster of employees tests positive within a 14-day period, said Cati Gallardo, a public information specialist with the county. An employee in the department, who asked to remain anonymous, said the outbreak was declared on June 23 and extended after yet more employees tested positive.

In order for the outbreak to be declared over, the department must go 14 days without any additional positive diagnoses, according to Gallardo, who said that a dozen Planning and Building workers have tested positive since the fourth week of June.

As protective measures, employees have been masking and practicing physical distancing, and the department has had both routine and targeted cleanings, Gallardo said. 

“Employees have been directed to stay home if they aren’t feeling well,” she added. “Employees are also being informed of positive cases and being provided with free COVID-19 testing and instructions on how to self-monitor for symptoms. Staff has been provided with information on what employee benefits are available to them should they test positive.”

The sign on the front door asks members of the public to wear “appropriate facial coverings when entering the building,” with a note that masks are available inside. But Gallardo said masking remains optional for the general public.

While the number of PCR tests being administered countywide has dropped significantly in recent months, the percent testing positive has skyrocketed since the beginning of April, according to information on the county’s COVID dashboard.

The anonymous Planning and Building employee said the earliest date that the outbreak can now be declared over is a week from today, August 3. [UPDATE: After three more positive tests, including one just this morning, that date has been moved back to August 10, the employee says.]