Testing Trouble in Humboldt County

Eva Weller, Co-Photo Editor

12th February, 2021

A socially distanced waiting area at the Redwood Acres Fairgrounds where the public can get COVID test free with insurance. December 11, 2020. (Photo Credit: Eva Weller)

This was written in December of 2020, before the rollout of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Thus some information may not be applicable to now.

As almost all of California has gone into the purple tier of the coronavirus, ICU capacity in Humboldt is at  14.3 currently. With our county recently dipping in, and now back out of the red tier, cold weather keeping people indoors means that cases are rising each week. Our county has seen 33.1 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, according to an update made on February 11th with the Humboldt Health Alert. 

In rural areas such as ours, testing isn’t as accessible as it is in the rest of the state, and there is less money being devoted to healthcare, therefore less resources. 

An anonymous nurse from the OB department at St. Joseph’s in Eureka speaks on lack of testing for employees. “People who are other essential workers such as grocery store workers or dentists will complain, ‘oh, we should get weekly testing…’ and I realize I think most of the public assumes we at the hospital get that, which is not true,” the nurse stated. 

Tests are of course available for patients, but the hospital does not supply testing for employees, which is worrisome for both them and the general public. “If one of our employees catches the virus, likely from an outside source, it still affects a large portion of our department as people are so cautious and exposure is frightening,” she said. It is, of course, different because the nurse being interviewed works in the OB department, which has seen little to no cases, but it is frightening that hospital workers could spread COVID-19 amongst themselves (or even to you) because they are equally as safe as the general public. The nurse stated, “There is no special treatment if I am exposed to Coronavirus. I have to sign up for a test at a doctors office or Redwood Acres just like everyone else.”

 Nurses and other healthcare professionals are feeling almost expendable because of this lack of resources reserved for them. “I get it though, the more testing there is, the more cases. We don’t come to work if we are sick and everyone tries their best to stay healthy,” the nurse said. Small communities like ours are struggling with testing where we really need it. Meanwhile, Humboldt State University students who live on campus have access to testing when they move in and under other circumstances where frequent visits to campus are required according to the HSU admission website. Furthermore, HSU states that athletes are tested periodically which is odd considering nurses aren’t. The essential workers of Humboldt County lack the resources to have frequent tests even though they have to go to work while others can stay home. Just this week, when researching how to find tests as fast as possible locally, I found that the Fortuna testing location shut down as the cases started to rise, which is just so contradictory. As the vaccine comes to our health workers slowly but surely, it is important to remember that our community is still smaller and lacks resources, therefore we must act consciously to protect each other and stay safe.