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Even As Hospitals Fill Up, An ICU Pulmonologist Sees Reason To Hope – COVID-19 Update For Dec. 4

For months, even as other parts of the U.S. hit record after record for newly reported COVID-19 cases or the number of patients being treated in hospitals, virus infections in California and the San Joaquin Valley had been holding steady. In the last few weeks, however, the numbers suggest our local bout with the pandemic has taken a turn for the worse.

Across the Valley, the number of cases being reported daily has more than tripled in the last month, and two counties in particular—Kings and Mariposa—have reported their highest one-day increases in infections since the pandemic began. Because of sharp rises in cases across the state, as well as dwindling bed space in hospitals, Governor Gavin Newsom has instituted 3-week stay-at-home orders to begin in each of the state’s five major regions as soon as ICU availability for that region falls below 15 percent.

But there’s some reason for optimism: The mortality rate among COVID-19 patients appears to be falling and, staff permitting, hospitals do have the space to repurpose more beds for the intensive care units. Plus, the state is making preparations for distributing the first round of preventive vaccines as soon as they become available, as early as mid-December.

This week’s COVID-19 update features the latest trends in local cases and hospitalization rates, as well as some words of hope from Dr. Eyad Almasri, a pulmonologist with UCSF Fresno who spends most of his clinical hours caring for COVID-19 patients in Community Regional Medical Center’s intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, here’s 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 Dec. 3:

*awaiting a data update from Fresno County
For comparison, as of Nov. 26:

  • 1,590 deaths out of 127,361 cases
  • 614 people hospitalized and 100 in ICUs
  • In the last week, 37 people succumbed to the disease
  • Average cases reported daily in the last week: 1,138

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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