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State Aid Comes To Valley, Jails & Prisons Remain Virus Hotbeds: COVID-19 Update For July 27-31

Fresno County Jail (file photo)
As of Wednesday July 29, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office is reporting 910 COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated and 60 among staff.


Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 response this week shifted to eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley, where he is now sending support teams and $52 million in aid to assist with testing, contact tracing and other containment measures.


Simultaneously, the case counts have risen significantly in two local correctional facilities: Avenal State Prison, which with 1,446 cumulative cases among both incarcerated and staff is the second highest total of any California state prison, and the Fresno County Jail, where 970 inmates and staff have tested positive.


This week’s COVID-19 update features excerpts from conversations with two legal experts on prison health – Don Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office and Lucia Tian, chief analytics officer with the American Civil Liberties Union – who help explain why correctional facilities are hotbeds for the virus and what their work has shown could reduce its impact.


A snapshot for Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare Counties (note that some numbers may have changed between the interview and publication): 

  • As of July 30: 573 deaths out of 52,249 cases; 886 people hospitalized and 186 in ICUs
  • As of July 23:486 deaths out of 40,546 cases; 980 people hospitalized and 200 in ICUs 
  • In the last week, 87 people in our coverage area succumbed to the disease. In the week before, the total was 52.
  • Average cases reported daily in the last week: 1,671
  • You can always find up-to-date information for your countyhere
Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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