Far North

Libations to Hubris

Barkeep, pour me a stiff one, will ya? a climate-changer on the rocks, a big hunk of ancient ice, if ya’ got it; want to watch it melt. Thanks for turning up the thermostat. Can’t wait to see the stirrer melt into an oily, iridescent scum, a fitting offering to the green-dollar flash. I’ll need a pandemic chaser, too, in a brandy snifter, if you got one. Don’t worry, I’ll keep my mask on, just slide it down the bar with your     broom handle. I’m skilled at swirling the liquor just so to catch a whiff of tomorrow’s scapegoat, better than any oracle I’ve found, works the same the world around. Mary Thibodeaux Lentz…

A Toe in the Water

As a slow relaxing of shelter in place begins, a long road lies ahead On May 4, Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered some desperately anticipated news: The state will begin lifting shelter-in-place restrictions May 8, in time for people to buy some flowers for Mother’s Day. “This is an optimistic day as we see a little ray of sunshine on the horizon,” said Newsom.  But he also made clear this isn’t going to look the way many had hoped, and it certainly is not what protesters have been clamoring for throughout the state. Yes, you’ll be able to pick up those flowers but you’ll have to do it from the sidewalk in front of the florist, which will have to follow strict protocols to keep masked staff and customers physically distanced, surfaces disinfected and everyone’s hands washed frequently. And if you’re looking for restaurants, offices and shopping malls to reopen, that’s still going to be a while, though Newsom’s announcement left Humboldt County officials optimistic those things may happen sooner here than in other parts of the state. The governor’s announcement came as pressure was building…

Rice Sacks and Blessings

Hmong and Lao volunteers feed their communities Every April the Humboldt Grange fills with music, prayer, the chanting of Buddhist monks and Lao food — tables laden with aluminum trays of fried fish, spring rolls, rice cakes and pungent salads — some of which families bring up in silver chalices as New Year’s offerings to their ancestors. But this year, under the threat of COVID-19 and the restrictions of the resulting shelter-in-place order, there would be no feast, no families and friends gathered on mats, praying shoulder to shoulder to mark the lunar new year. But that doesn’t mean they’re not coming together. Instead, a group of local Lao and Hmong folks joined to help bring much needed food and emergency supplies to families in both communities. On May 2, with $8,000 in funds from the Humboldt Area Foundation’s COVID-19 Regional Response Fund, volunteers distributed Southeast Asian food staples, first aid kits, school supplies and health information related to COVID-19 translated into Hmong and Lao to some 70 families. When Pata Vang, a Hmong American who works as a clinical social worker, heard about potential…

A Nation of Laws

It was the nation’s second president, John Adams, who said, “We are a nation of laws, not of men.” It is one of the lights that guides this experiment of democracy we’re all engaged in and what holds us together as a society. After all, it’s laws that hold that your inalienable right to swing your arms ends when one connects with someone’s face, laws that protect your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — those hallowed ideals that led the country’s independence from foreign rule. We watched with a mix of sadness, anger and angst last week as the rule of law frayed in parts of California, including the North Coast, as people and counties began to rebel against the statewide COVID-19 shelter-in-place order. We saw restaurants in Orange County — and one in Klamath — defiantly re-open to dine-in service and governments in Modoc, Yuba and Sutter counties go rogue, rolling back provisions of the state’s order. In Mendocino County, Sheriff Matt Kendall broke from his public health officer, calling on the county to roll back shelter in place and…

Tell Us Your Story

When the history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, each day of these early months will seem like a compressed week when examined by scholars. That’s how fast the virus was moving. And in a few short weeks in March, that’s how fast the non-essential economy shut down here in Humboldt, as if someone pushed the starting domino in a chain. There’s no doubt we’re still somewhere in the uncertain middle of this pandemic, but this first week in May seems a little brighter and more hopeful. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced May 4 that counties can now move from stage one shelter in place to stage two, a “soft” re-opening of some non-essential businesses. That is, if measurable benchmarks are achieved and safety precautions in place. Humboldt meets those benchmarks now due to its sparse, rural population and relatively quick action on shelter in place. But before we congratulate ourselves, remember that one of those benchmarks, testing one person per 1,000, is a ridiculously low bar. (See our cover story last week, “The Test.”) Nevertheless, Public Health Officer Teresa Frankovich and Sheriff William Honsal were…

The Cat Would Like You to Return to Work

Oh, hey. Did I wake you by running full bore through the living room and leaping up the couch arm onto your head? Well, now that you’re up, let’s talk. First of all, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon. Not only are you here but you’re napping. In my 4 p.m. spot. And it’s weird. The first few days you were home it was … fine. There were long trips to the grocery store and bouts of cooking and panicky housecleaning that mostly kept you out of the way. But now you’ve hoarded more toilet paper than I have time to shred into a fluffy mountain and you’re just … here. Lingering. Even worse than your abandoned hygiene routine, the smell of sourdough is unbearable. I thought I made myself clear when I knocked your revolting jar of starter slime off the counter. But there it is again, mocking me like your stupid bird, swelling and bubbling against the glass. The amount of attention you give it is equally unsettling — feeding it morning and night without it having to knock everything off your nightstand…

Newsom: State can begin gradual reopening Friday

California is ready to partially reopen major sectors of its economy as early as this Friday, including retail shops and the manufacturers that supply them, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. Clothing outlets, bookstores, florists and other merchants across the state will be allowed to offer curbside pickup as long as they obey physical distancing guidelines meant to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. California companies that make clothing, furniture, toys, and other goods those retailers sell can also resume operations, with appropriate worker protections. “This is an optimistic day as we see a little ray of sunshine on the horizon,” said Newsom. While more details on which specific industries would be allowed to reopen won’t be available until Thursday, Newsom’s announcement marks the first major relaxing of the statewide shelter-in-place order he issued March 19 and the first time the governor has offered a specific date by which California can enter the second stage of the administration’s four-stage recovery plan. With COVID-19 hospitalization rates stabilizing, testing capacity improving and a sufficient inventory of personal protective equipment, Newsom said the state can begin the delicate dance of reopening its…

Lawsuit Filed Over Humboldt Marten Endangered Species Listing

The continued survival of a small, elusive woodland creature once thought to be extinct is the subject of a lawsuit filed today against the Trump administration, which a pair of conservation groups argue has failed to finalize Endangered Species Act protections for the Humboldt marten. According to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not meet an October 2019 deadline to list the Humboldt marten as endangered, which would trigger a series of conservation measures. Once thought to be extinct, the cat-like animals with pointy ears and bushy tails were rediscovered in 1996 after years of pelt hunting, timber logging and illicit marijuana cultivation decimated the old growth forest denizens’ numbers. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is failing at its charge to protect America’s native wildlife,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “Delay after delay, the Humboldt marten has been put at peril to placate the timber industry.” Once common in coastal mountain areas from Sonoma County north to the Columbia River in Oregon, only a few hundred are…

Yurok Tribe Castigates Del Norte Supervisor for Supporting Restaurant’s Opening in Violation of Tribal, State and County Health Orders

The owners of a tiny diner, the members of a remote California tribe, and the First District supervisor of Del Norte County clashed this weekend as tensions rise between those who fear economic collapse if their communities don’t reopen for business and those who fear death and illness if their communities do. On Saturday, the Log Cabin Diner, a small restaurant located in Klamath, California reopened to dine-in customers. The owners, Sherry and Ed Scott, posted the sign above and few sentences on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “WE are opening tomorrow Saturday May 2nd at 7:30am!! We are adding PIZZA to the menu as well as serving our regular breakfast and lunch menu. As all ways take [out] is available. Can’t wait to see you!” The tiny town of Klamath, population 779, sits in Supervisor District 5, not far from Del Norte County’s southernmost border shared with its neighbor Humboldt County and at the heart of the Yurok Tribe’s reservation. Roger Gitlin, Del Norte County’s District 1 supervisor, was one of the Log Cabin Diner’s customers that day. “Angie and I learned the Log Cabin…

‘This is What a Pandemic Does:’ Humboldt Begins Charting a Course out of Shelter in Place

It was about an hour and a half into an April 21 COVID-19 briefing before the Board of Supervisors, amid a discussion that was pressing at times, with a pair of seemingly frustrated supervisors inquiring why certain businesses hadn’t been allowed to open or why Humboldt wasn’t being treated differently than other areas of the state, when Chair Estelle Fennell asked Public Health Director Michelle Stephens if she had anything to add. Stephens then took the proverbial dais at the virtual meeting, which saw all participants video conferencing in from their homes or offices. “A couple of things come to mind,” Stephens began. “We all have friends … that have small businesses that are severely impacted by this. I worry for them and I worry for their families. This is what a pandemic does to a country, a world, a community, and we’re in the middle of it. … When we reopen, we will have an increase in cases.” Stephens essentially backed Newsom’s plan to keep the entire state sheltering in place for some weeks longer, giving counties the chance increase testing capacities and stockpiles…

A Huge Welcome, and a Big Thank You

Just in case any of you needed proof that miracles still happen every day, even amid a pandemic, we are wonderfully happy to announce the newest addition to our Journal family, Parker Elizabeth Windham. Little Parker was born May 1 at St. Joseph Hospital, the daughter of Journal advertising manager Kyle Windham and St. Bernard’ Academy English teacher Jessi Merrill. Both Parker and the new mom are happy and healthy. There’s still so much to be grateful for in this world, and we at the Journal remain incredibly grateful for the support you — our readers — continue to show. For nearly 30 years, the North Coast Journal has been covering the stories and people you care about in Humboldt County. We’re proud to share our coverage in print and online for free so everyone — with or without internet access or the means to subscribe to a paper — can stay informed, especially during the current COVID-19 crisis. This week, our ongoing COVID-19 reporting included daily case updates, a detailed look at why testing still remains limited, the push and pull over whether to close…

Five 101 Closures at Last Chance Grade Coming in May

Caltrans will be fully shutting down U.S. Highway 101 at Last Chance Grade overnight five times in May to conduct roadwork needed to stabilize the notorious stretch of road in Del Norte County. According to a Facebook post, the closures on May 11, 12 and 13 will take place from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. On May 14 and May 15, the shutdowns are planned for 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and from 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. “Emergency services will be accommodated through the closure if necessary,” the post states. “Electronic overhead signs will also be used to notify motorists of the plan.” Environmental and geotechnical studies are underway or being planned to help move along an estimated $300 million to $1 billion project to build an alternative route around the 3-mile section of road that has shifted 50 feet to the west since 1937. Over the last decade, more than $55 million has been spent on temporary fixes to keep the vital link between the northern reaches of California and the rest of the state open. Read more about Last Chance Grade here…

Newsom’s Promise to Immediately Feed Seniors Hasn’t Yet Delivered

Last week Gov. Newsom announced that eligible seniors throughout California could immediately get three free restaurant meals per day delivered to their door. Yet a week later, not a single meal has been delivered, and tens of thousands of Californians who have tried to sign up have been left disappointed, confused and maybe even hungry. During his press conference last Friday, Newsom said counties and cities were ready, but in reality, most were caught off-guard: Most didn’t know that such a program was under consideration. Now they are scrambling to identify restaurants and eligible seniors before federal funding runs out on May 10. It’s the latest example of how Newsom has announced an ambitious coronavirus response plan before details were hammered out and, in this case, even before the agencies recruited to carry it out were notified. Under the governor’s plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the cost of the meals, which would cost up to $66 per person for three meals per day. The state will cover another 18.75 percent. That leaves about six cents out of every dollar…

Modified Shelter-in-Place Order Allows Bicycle Shops, Some Social Services to Resume

Humboldt County’s Joint Information Center sent out a press release this afternoon clarifying how Gov. Gavin Newsom’s modified stay-at-home order changes things here in Humboldt. (Spoiler alert: not much.) The modified order allows some real estate work to resume, bicycle shops to re-open and faith based social services to resume, all as “essential” activities. It also clarifies what types of outdoor recreation are allowable, while still practicing social distancing with everyone who is not a member of your household. Check out the full press release below. May 1, 2020 – Statewide Stay-at-Home Order Updated: Most Activities Already Allowed in Humboldt 707-441-5000 ; covidinfo@co.humboldt.ca.us ; Monday-Friday 8am to 7pm ; Saturday 10am to 5pm Opens in new window California Governor Gavin Newsom further clarified the state’s Stay-at-Home Order in a series of posts and statements yesterday, though many of the activities mentioned are already allowed in Humboldt County. Clarifications to essential services pertain to real estate, bicycle shops and faith-based social services. A summary is listed below. Real estate: Residential and commercial real estate workers are limited to scheduled property viewings to a potential buying party. This…

COVID-19 Economic Losses Continue to Mount

The economic losses of the COVID-19 induced shutdown continue to mount, with at least 270 more job losses in Humboldt County over the last week, according to an ongoing economic impact survey of local businesses conducted by the Office of Emergency Services. The 729 businesses that have responded report a total revenue loss of $30.2 million, with 2,408 employees having been let go. According to data from the U.S. Census, that equates to a loss of about 7 percent of the county’s workforce with just 23 percent of employers having responded to the survey. At Tuesday’s Humboldt County Board of Supervisors Meeting, Economic Development Director Scott Adair told the board the state Employment Development Department received 5,846 local unemployment claims in March. As of April 22, workers in the accommodation and food services industries had been by far the hardest hit, followed by retail employees. (See graphic above.) As of yesterday, Humboldt County had confirmed 54 COVID-19 cases and, despite four hospitalizations, 52 of those people have since recovered. Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control reported 1,031,659 COVID-19 cases with 60,057 deaths, including 48,917 cases and…

Public Health: No New Covid-19 Cases Found After 85 More Tests

With another 85 tests processed, Humboldt County Public Health announced this afternoon that there are no new confirmed local COVID-19 cases. Today’s results come after Public Health processed another 62 samples and corporate labs reported results from another 23. Of the 54 cases Humboldt County has confirmed to date, 52 of the patients have since recovered and are no longer in isolation. Just four local samples have tested positive since April 7. With today’s results, the county has now seen 2,244 residents tested — about 1.6 percent of the population. Last week, county officials announced both a mandatory facial covering ordinance and the first steps toward efforts to reopen aspects of life in Humboldt County that have been shuttered by COVID-19. It also comes after county officials spent Thursday evening discussing local modeling projections for the first time, which show how, with shelter-in-place restrictions for the rest of the year, Humboldt County could see 28 COVID-19 deaths by December and how, if all restrictions are lifted by May 1, we could see 188 deaths by July 1. The county announced Tuesday that a new testing site has begun…

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