NCJ Preview: Vaccines and County Staff, Police Shooting Footage and Restoring the Eureka Theater

This week we’re looking at why the board of supervisors declined to require vaccines for county employees, going for weekly testing for the unvaccinated instead. We’re also going into what’s on newly released footage from last month’s police shooting of a suspect on Mad River Road, as well as how law affects what’s made public and how. Meanwhile, in Eureka, an architectural jewel is getting some shine as the Streamline Moderne Eureka Theater is restored, including the secret apartment upstairs. Finally, we’ve got a little taste of the Feast of our Lady of Fatima at Ferndale’s Portuguese Hall. Hit subscribe for weekly updates on stories from around the county. …

Public Health Confirms 10 New COVID-19 Cases; FDA Recommends Emergency Authorization Use of J&J Booster Dose

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed 10 new COVID-19 cases, with no additional deaths or hospitalizations reported. Public Health also reported that an advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend the FDA authorize emergency use for a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for adults 18 and older and authorize Moderna boosters for certain high-risk groups. The committee also discussed data on using a booster of a different vaccine type from the one used in the primary series, commonly called “mixing and matching,” but did not make a recommendation. The FDA is expected to make an official decision on boosters for both vaccines soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is then expected to meet sometime in the next week to discuss who will be recommended to receive them.  The new cases come after laboratories processed 372 samples with a test-positivity rate of 11.16 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August and 15.2 percent in September. A state database shows 15 people…

Hospitals Brace for Strikes as California Workers Protest Staff Shortages

As weary health care workers across California enter the 19th month of the pandemic, thousands are walking off the job and onto the picket line, demanding more staffing. The strikes and rallies threaten to cripple hospital operations that have been inundated by the COVID-19 Delta surge as well as patients seeking long-delayed care. More than two dozen hospitals across the state — including some Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health facilities and USC Keck Medicine — have experienced strikes by engineers, janitorial staff, respiratory therapists, nurses, midwives, physical therapists and technicians over the past four months. This week, nearly a third of all California hospitals reported “critical staffing shortages” to the federal government, with more predicting shortages in the coming week. Hospitals are unable to meet the state’s required staff-to-patient ratios for nurses or schedule adequate numbers of other critical personnel. In the Central Valley, the region hit hardest by the Delta surge, National Guard medics have been deployed since September to assist area hospitals. The reason for the shortages? Record patient volumes at the same time that many workers have been driven away from the…

Culture

There’s Someone Inside Your House THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE. Is a slasher movie ever just a slasher movie? Probably not. Go back and watch a few of the genre’s prototypes from the ’70s and ’80s, and you’ll find — more easily with the distance afforded by time — some recurring themes and popular mores fairly leaping from their stories and conventions. In her book Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, Carol J. Clover names “the final girl,” the scrappy, tomboyish survivor who always escapes the gauntlet, even as everyone else is cut down. Clover points out the ways in which the archetype subverts and eventually upholds gender rules — all of which seems impossible to miss now but back then it was like that saying about fish not seeing the water they swim in. Netflix’s There’s Someone Inside Your House hews closer to some genre conventions than others, especially in terms of the final girl, but updates its themes to fit the times. Maybe not the pandemic, but there’s anxiety over the outing of secrets that echoes the current…

Increased risk

With the city of Eureka and Humboldt County combining to spend $1 billion over the next decade on pension debt, a $1 billion loss of funding for services, (Mailbox, Sept. 9, 2021) at what point does leadership in law enforcement and other governmental leaders acknowledge the significant negative impact pension costs (increasing current costs and especially increasing debt payments) have on their ability to provide services? We are currently in another law enforcement staffing crisis. For 2021, Eureka’s pension debt payment is $6 million. HumCo is just starting its $17 million per year increase in pension spending due to its pension debt increasing from $220 million in 2015 to $330 million in 2021. It is very disturbing to think of where we will be at the end of this decade when Eureka’s yearly pension debt payments will be over $8 million and HumCo’s increase in yearly pension debt payments will be well over $100 million and still climbing to $170 million. Having funding for retirements absolute and guaranteed with funding for services optional and variable, with services so often diminished, is bad for everyone. Current…

Salty over Sea Pickles

Captain Brunch, the saltiest of our local old salts, agreed to take me on a sea pickle expedition. But first, he sized me up with his one good eye and said, “Aye, lad, do ye have the guts to face the treacherous sea pickle, yar?” I explained I get a little seasick but wasn’t concerned about being harmed by a bumpy, jelly-like, fibrous tube no more than 2 feet long. Even if I fell overboard, I could out-swim any sea pickle (Pyrosoma atlanticum) because they only move about 2 inches per second. Captain Brunch kicked a barrel of Champagne with his one good foot and said, “That sounds like book learnin’, lad. If ye swim away from one, there’s sure to be others lurking in the direction ye swim! They travel in vast shoals of torment!” I said, “I appreciate the maritime tradition of being obsessed with a mortal enemy amongst the ocean’s fauna, but a sea pickle isn’t exactly a leviathan that smites entire whaling crews.” “Bah! Captain Ahab was a pussy! He had but ONE mortal enemy. I have MILLIONS.” Captain Brunch swept…

Supes Decline Employee Vaccine Mandate, Push Forward With Testing Policy

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this afternoon to move forward with a policy requiring all county employees who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 to undergo weekly testing for the virus. After hours of discussion and public comment, the board stopped short of passing a vaccine mandate for county employees and instead directed staff to come back with a policy to implement a testing regiment for those county employees who don’t have proof of vaccination. County staff presented four policy options for the board Tuesday: remaining status quo, following state and federal mandates; requiring weekly testing for unvaccinated staff; requiring vaccinations with religious and medical exemptions; and requiring that all new hires be vaccinated. Eighteen months into a pandemic that has now killed more than 714,000 Americans, including 106 Humboldt County residents, a majority of the more than two hours of public comment taken on the agenda item this morning was decidedly against the idea of a vaccine mandate for county employees, much of it rife with misinformation about the science of COVID-19, vaccinations and the law. “We know you are being paid to…

Public Health Confirms 5 New COVID-19 Cases, One New Hospitalization

Humboldt County Public Health confirmed five new COVID-19 cases today and one new hospitalization. The new cases come after laboratories processed 285 samples with a test-positivity rate of 1.8 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August and 15.2 percent in September. A state database shows 23 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with five under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients. According to the county’s dashboard, 57 percent of the local population is now fully vaccinated, including nearly 65 percent of those 12 and older. Public Health reported last week that the seven-day average of new cases confirmed per 100,000 residents showed that while fully vaccinated residents accounted for about eight new cases daily per 100,000 in population, unvaccinated residents accounted for an average of 42 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently published a s tudy indicating unvaccinated individuals are 11 times more likely to die of…

Richard ‘Rich’ Olson 1939-2021

Richard “Rich” Olson, 81, was born Dec. 20, 1939, in Hettinger North Dakota to Rose Wandler and Wriley Irwin. He passed away peacefully Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, in his Eureka home with his family at his side. Rich and Linda were married in Daglum, North Dakota on Dec. 4, 1960, and moved to Eureka, California shortly after where they have resided ever since. Rich worked as a laborer/carpenter for many years for various people. He joined Eureka Construction working for Pete Gill until 1974 when he started RAO Construction. Rich was a hard-working dedicated man with the vision of building his company to what it is today. In 2002, he was named construction person of the year with Humboldt Builders Exchange as well as the lifetime achievement award in 2016 and the 2011 contractor of the year with the Ingomar Club. His legacy and work ethic continue through his three boys and grandchildren. He was a member of the Eureka Faith Center and the Eureka Elks Lodge. Rich was an amateur boxer at the age of 21, enjoyed golf and stock car racing but really kept…

Ethnic Studies Becomes Graduation Requirement for California Students

After a years-long battle reignited in recent months by controversies over misunderstandings of critical race theory, California students will soon be required to take ethnic studies to graduate high school. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 101 into law on Friday afternoon, requiring California high school students to take ethnic studies to graduate, starting with the class of 2030. Educators and recent studies attest to the benefits of students learning the histories and cultures of marginalized communities, but a few parents still worry the requirement could create more tensions between students. “The inclusion of ethnic studies in the high school curriculum is long overdue,” said Assemblymember Jose Medina, a Democrat from Riverside who authored AB 101. “Students cannot have a full understanding of the history of our state and nation without the inclusion of the contributions and struggles of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans.” Last year, Newsom vetoed a similar bill, also authored by Medina, citing the need for revision in the model curriculum. The previous versions of the curriculum were widely criticized for being anti-semitic, too politically correct and filled with jargon.…

NCJ Daily: Law Enforcement Staffing, the Symphony’s Return and Candy Corn Hate

This week, we’re talking about the trouble local law enforcement agencies are having filling their ranks and keeping cops on board. We’ll sort through the myriad reasons and theories for the hiring challenges. Also, it’s been a long time since Setlist columnist Collin Yeo hit a live performance. His story this week both reviews the Eureka Symphony’s 30th opening weekend at the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts and shares what it’s like attending an in-person show again, this time with vaccination cards and masks. Finally, we’re indulging our sweet tooth and reveling in the cloying joy of candy corn, the seasonal treat folks love to hate. Hit subscribe for weekly updates on stories from around the county. …

Public Health Reports Four More COVID-19 Deaths

Humboldt County Public Health reported four more COVID-19 deaths today, making eight this week, as well as 35 new cases of the virus and two new hospitalizations. The deaths were of two residents in their 60s, one in their 70s and one over the age of 80, bringing the county’s cumulative pandemic death toll to 106. Public Health reported today that of the eight deaths reported over the past week, five were of people who had been fully vaccinated. The average age of post-vaccinated fatalities is 79, the county reported, while it is 65 for unvaccinated individuals. The new cases — which come on the heels of 243 confirmed last week and make 236 this week — come after laboratories processed 238 samples with a test-positivity rate of 14.7 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August and 15.2 percent in September, far outpacing state (2.5 percent) and national (6.3 percent) rates. Through the first seven days of October, Humboldt’s test-positivity…

Public Health Reports Another COVID Death, 33 New Cases

Another Humboldt County resident has died of COVID-19, Public Health reported today, while confirming 33 new cases of the virus and two new hospitalizations. The death — the fourth reported this week — was of a resident over the age of 80, bringing the county’s cumulative pandemic death toll to 102. The new cases — which come on the heels of 243 confirmed last week and make 203 so far this week — come after laboratories processed 296 samples with a test-positivity rate of 11.1 percent. After recording a test-positivity rate of 10.1 percent in July — the highest for any month since the pandemic began — the rate in Humboldt County jumped to 15.9 percent in August and 15.2 percent in September, far outpacing state (2.5 percent) and national (6.3 percent) rates. Through the first seven days of October, Humboldt’s test-positivity rate sits at 14.5 percent. A state database shows 19 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 locally, with five under intensive care. The local hospital census peaked Sept. 3 with 42 COVID-19 patients. Public Health offered new data Friday on so-called breakthrough cases of fully vaccinated…

Help Wanted

A staffing ‘crisis’ has law enforcement triaging while grasping for answers In Eureka, officers are working an emergency schedule built on 12.5-hour shifts and mandatory overtime, as the police department’s once touted Problem Oriented Policing and Community Safety Engagement teams operate with skeletal staffing. In Arcata, two detectives have been pulled back to patrol and all calls for service that don’t involve someone in danger have been deprioritized, while proactive policing measures — like traffic enforcement in front of local schools or a detail to address the problematic group of homeless people doing drugs and relieving themselves in public near the Arcata Community Center — have been shelved. For the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, 12-hour schedules and mandatory overtime — with deputies working holidays and weekends and days off — have become the norm. Resident deputy posts sit vacant while regular rural patrols and around-the-clock coverage of outlying areas have been abandoned for the time being. Amid a pandemic, deputies are afraid to call in sick for fear of leaving their co-workers stretched even thinner while the county looks to renegotiate police services contracts with…

Sue-meg Restored

An iconic state park ditches its murderous namesake Since time immemorial, the Yurok people have called the coastal area north of Trinidad — located in the heart of their ancestral lands — Sue-meg. Now, some 170 years after the name was usurped, the 1-square-mile property with meadows, forest lands and long beaches stretched out below soaring cliffs will officially be known as Sue-meg State Park. The State Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously Sept. 30 to — as one commissioner said — “restore the name” to the unit originally designated as Patrick’s Point State Park. “Reclaiming a name is really the core to this,” Commissioner Sara Barth said, noting she did not consider the decision a “renaming.” “It’s restoring a name that was inappropriately taken.” The change is the first for a State Park under California’s “Reexamining Our Past Initiative,” which was launched by the state last year to address what California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot described as “historic names that stem from a dark legacy that includes discrimination, violence and inequity.” California State Parks Director Armando Quintero, who appeared emotional as the final…

As It Was, So Shall It Be

Eureka Symphony opens again On Oct. 1 and 2, the Eureka Symphony opened its 30th anniversary season at the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts with a program that was aptly titled “Re-Emergence.” I was there, at my first large indoor concert after the longest break in indoor concerts I have experienced since I can remember. It wasn’t an easy decision. I have, like a lot of you, I am sure, watched and experienced the pandemic desolation that has come in the wake of large public events. However, the draw that clinched it for me was the very necessary and correct measures the organizers took to assure the safety of the public: Vaccination cards and masks were required. Talking to some of the friendly staff in the lobby before the show, I was told there were no issues among the patrons with these rules and the only thing even approaching drama was when one concert-goer had to return to their vehicle to retrieve their vax card, which they did without complaint. My first glimmer of hope that evening was the revelation that, despite what the…

Toward a Sustainable Blue Economy

Symposium focuses on harnessing the promise of the coast The perennial conflict between environmental conservation and economic development may now be in remission, the crisis of climate change increasingly pushing industries into cooperation with environmental goals. One such path of co-existence, at least along the California coast, is the “Sustainable Blue Economy,” defined by the World Bank as the “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.” A three-day symposium on the “Sustainable Blue Economy” was held virtually last week, sponsored by California Sea Grant, the Humboldt Bay Initiative and several local consulting firms. The symposium featured scientists, community activists and an economist, as well as government officials of all denominations, ranging from county planners to the head of a state agency. The keynote speaker was Wade Crowfoot, secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency, an umbrella agency that supervises the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Ocean Protection Council, the Coastal Commission, the Coastal Conservancy and numerous other environmental agencies. People identify climate action with electric vehicles or solar panels on roofs, Crowfoot…