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Thirty Cases Now Tied to Recent SoHum Gathering, Frankovich Reports in Latest Media Availability – Lost Coast Outpost

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Still working beyond full-time as the county searches for her replacement, Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich today sat down once again to answer media questions. 

Below you’ll find a list of questions and a computer-generated transcription of her responses. 

The North Coast News asks, “Do you believe
regular testing of school employees and or students should be done
and who would be responsible for the cost?”

Well, people may be aware that the that CDPH did put out guidance with their
school document about recommending some surveillance testing. At that time they were recommending
testing about 50 [members] of school staff every month, so 100 every
two months.

Testing of this sort it has become a
little controversial and I think the reasoning for that is because,
you can imagine, if an employee is being tested once every two months, the
odds that you’re going to catch them at the moment they have an infection
is lower than if you’re testing either more frequently
or specific to symptoms or exposures.

All that being said, I think there is some value to doing surveillance testing
and we do have the capacity to do that and we can do that free of charge.
So we have certainly made the schools aware of that and we’ve helped through
our Optum site to bring testing to some places so that staff
could be tested.

There is no requirement to do so at this
time. But I certainly believe that as we
develop our own collection system and our own testing strategy locally, our
capacity will only increase and I’m hoping that the schools will avail
themselves of that, just like I’m encouraging everyone in
our community to get tested on a regular basis so we have that information.
And if we do detect someone positive, we can respond to that promptly. 

The North Coast News asks, “After contact tracing was done,
which age group, 0 to 9 or 10 through 19,
appeared to show a higher rate of virus spread, and can you talk about each
group’s symptoms and recovery?”

So, that’s an interesting question. I would say just offhand that in the majority of our pediatric cases, the child has
not been the initial case. So most typically there has been an
adult contact who has been positive and the child has subsequently been exposed and become infected
and is detected typically through case investigation.

Children, as we all know, have tended to be more likely to be asymptomatic
or have very few symptoms relative to older individuals.
And so if it were not for those case investigations we might not identify
some of these cases at all because the children wouldn’t
necessarily come to medical attention. So we have had no hospitalizations to
date in an individual under the age of 20.

KMUD asks, “Dr. Frankovich, can you share an update on testing?”

Well, we’re continuing to work with our North Coast Testing partnership on
developing this regional test strategy. Things are going really well.
Again, what we’re planning is to establish
our own collection entity for both Humboldt County and also in Del Norte
ensuring that we’re serving our Tribal partners, as well.

We are pulling that framework together at the same time that the
laboratory piece is being put together, as well. We have been receiving
the Perkin-Elmer equipment into the laboratory setting at UIHS. I think we’re
waiting for the last couple of pieces and putting all the other instruments set up together.

I’m sure people can imagine, it’s a pretty complicated process — both that we
have to put the laboratory testing capacity in place, the collection capacity and then we also
have to have the information system to support it.
So we have to have a platform where
people are able to schedule their appointment,
and where they’re able to access their results, and
in a timely way and to be able to get the other information that they need.

So basically the team’s been meeting frequently to put all of this together
and we’re still looking to have this operational this Fall.

KMUD News asks, “Is there any information you can share on the recent
deaths in Humboldt County related to COVID-19?”

Well, I think we put the information out at the time that these were
individuals over the age of 65 and that’s really the information we have to
share at this time.

KMUD News asks, “Are you
concerned about a Coronavirus outbreak among firefighters?”

Well, I’m always concerned when we pull people together,
and in any venue, and certainly when we’re pulling together firefighters from
many different areas, both other states as well as within the state.
So, yes, it’s a concern.

At the same time I know that
CalFIRE and other entities have really worked hard on protocols
about how to do this as safely as possible, both in terms of how
firefighters are lodged, how they are managed if they become ill and
how we can expedite testing to help out in that scenario.
So I think we’re operating as safely as possible under the circumstances.

The Two Rivers Tribune asks, “By crunching numbers and the county begins
to understand the impacts the virus has delivered to Humboldt County,
what would you say our overall report grade would be?”

Well, I think we’re doing really well.
That being said, we’re in the Orange Tier and
that’s compared to many of our counties in California.
From that standpoint we’re doing very well. Those in the Red and the Purple
Tier obviously are having to be more restrictive in what they can
do and they’re dealing with a lot more in
terms of outbreak in case numbers. So I feel fortunate in that.

At the same time, I would like us to be in the less restrictive tier. I’d like us
to be in Yellow. I think it’s important to let people
know … every week on Tuesday
the state is going to release data on what tier you would fall in based on
that week. And so our numbers actually for
this reporting period, which ended on the 12th of September, so the
state data lags behind, that would put us
at a case rate of 4.3 per 100 000, which would actually have
put us in the Red Tier by that metric.

In order to actually move
into the Red Tier, you have to be there for at least two weeks.
Fortunately for us, our data for last week, the week ending the 19th, looks
better, at least right now. Additional test
results do get added into the state reporting system over time, so we’re
never completely certain until the report date. But right now, it
looks good.

So I don’t expect that we’ll be moving into the Red
Tier anytime soon. But I do think we need all need to
note that and take the appropriate steps,
which is: if we want to maintain where we are or
even, best case, improve, we have to embrace all those measures
that we’ve been talking about so that we can really keep our
business community vibrant and so that we’re able to have children in
school.

The Two Rivers Tribune
asks, “Numbers continue to slowly climb. What do you feel is the biggest threat of
transmission as people know more now than in the beginning how
to protect themselves and others?”

Well, I think we we are learning as we go and I think that the evidence has really been
accumulating about the importance and the effectiveness of the use of facial
coverings. And I regret that at the beginning we
didn’t understand that well, and we weren’t embracing that or
encouraging it.

And I think that did make it difficult
for people because I still hear people saying: well, at the
beginning everyone said – don’t use them.
And I just want to point out that we’re learning about this virus in real time.
We are watching what happens, and in the best scientific manner,
we’re actually trying things, watching what successes people have had with
different measures, and then implementing the things that make the
most sense. That’s what we do.

And I think what we’ve learned is that
the use of facial coverings actually is really helpful.
So I’m really encouraged by seeing the number of people that
have really embraced that here, and I think we can do better on that front, and
I think that will help us. I also think, travel and gatherings … it’s a driver of infection in the state, and I think that we really need to,
as much as the social piece of this is challenging,
we really need to try and reduce that gathering.

Because those really do impact what’s happening in our community.
We spoke previously about a large gathering of about 50 people,
and I think I had mentioned at the time, we reported it that we had about 22
subsequent cases related to that case. That number is now over 30.
And so it just speaks to the issue that you can’t predict in advance
which gatherings are going to turn out to be that sort of super spreader kind
of event. And so the safest thing is not to hold
them at all.

And I would encourage people, if they really
are going to get together with others, that again, it’s a small group.
Again, talking maybe six people, not 20 people, and that it’s outdoors,
and that people are distanced and that
they are not sharing food. So pulling people together — a small group
in your backyard, outdoors, distanced is obviously much
safer than having people inside your home,
sharing a meal around a table where it is much more likely you’re going to
spread infection. If anyone attending is ill and
doesn’t know it.

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