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Labor Day No Time For A 'Holiday From Safety,' Health Official Warns In Light Of COVID-19

Healthy Fresno County Facebook page
Fresno County Interim Health Director Dr. Rais Vohra speaks during a media call on September 1, 2020.


Over the last month, the spread of COVID-19 in the San Joaquin Valley has slowed. But not all measures of the disease have improved, and health officials say it’s no time for the community to let down its guard.

Fresno County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra is concerned about the virus spreading during Labor Day weekend. In a media call on Tuesday, he said he knows it’s hard to hear, but non-essential gatherings should be cancelled.


“Labor Day is not a time to be taking a holiday from safety even if you’re taking a holiday from work,” he warned. He noted there had been upticks in virus transmission after people gathered without properly protecting themselves during both Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends. “That attitude change was really counterproductive and I really want to guard against that,” he said.


August was the pandemic’s deadliest month in the seven-county region of the southern San Joaquin Valley and foothills: Of the 1,055 people who had succumbed to the disease by Aug. 31, nearly half died just in the previous month.


However, some numbers are improving. The Valley’s worst day for new cases was July 28, when nearly 3,000 cases were reported across the region. Since then,newly reported cases have slowly declined, as havethe tallies of patients in hospital beds and intensive care units.


“We are trending down over the last couple weeks, which is good news,” said Kern County Health Officer Matt Constantine during a media call on Monday.


Still, our daily case rate and positivity rate remain high enough to earn most Valley counties a purple grade in Governor Newsom’s new color-coded rating system, a ranking that designates widespread transmission and requires the tightest level of restrictions on businesses and social activities. In the state’s 38 purple-designated counties, it will still be weeks before any of those restrictions could be lifted.


Key statistics as of August 31 for Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare Counties: 

For comparison, as of August 24: 

  • 930 deaths out of 82,375 cases
  • 585 people hospitalized and 148 in ICUs
  • In the last week, 107 people succumbed to the disease
  • Average cases reported daily in the last week: 863

You can always find up-to-date information for your county here.

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.
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