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Fresno County Sheriff Won’t Enforce Stay-At-Home Order; First Round Of Vaccines Anticipated

Fresno County Sheriff's Office Zoom call
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims addressed forthcoming stay-at-home orders during a virtual press call on December 3, 2020.

In a press call on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that regional stay-at-home orders are imminent. He explained that these orders would be triggered locally when intensive care units in a particular region’s hospitals become so crammed that they’re more than 85 percent full. The nine counties of the San Joaquin Valley make up one of the state’s five designated regions.

No region in the state has yet reached such a high ICU occupancy rate, but Newsom projects that most will in the next week or so. In a media call on Friday, Fresno County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said he wouldn’t be surprised if the San Joaquin Valley reached such a high patient load this weekend.

However, it’s up to local authorities to enforce these orders, and in Fresno County, Sheriff Mims has said her office will not. “My position is the sheriff’s office will be to keep doing what we’ve been doing, by answering calls for service, taking care of our responsibilities to address criminal issues,” she said. “However, we will not be enforcing any stay-at-home orders.”

During a press call on Thursday, Mims said she had also spoken with sheriffs in neighboring counties, who told her they feel the same. “With our limited resources, we have to prioritize what we do,” she said, explaining she’d be hard pressed to tell her deputies to put down a call about criminal activity in favor of ordering people to return home. “It comes to trusting our public to do the right thing.”

If a regional stay-at-home order does come down from Sacramento, residents would be restricted from all non-essential travel, and many business sectors, including hair salons and other personal care services, would need to fully shut back down.

In the meantime, state health officials have shared some details about vaccine distributions. As soon as a vaccine has been approved, Fresno County is slated to receive 7,800 of the state’s 327,000 first doses, according to Fresno County Department of Public Health community health division manager Joe Prado.

First in line for the first vaccine wave will be frontline health workers, according to Prado—including not just doctors and nurses, but also technicians and housekeeping staff. “We estimate that we have over 58,000 health care workers in Fresno County alone, so this is just the first wave of vaccine that is coming into our area,” he said during a Friday press call. As many as tens of thousands more doses could be delivered to the county after the first wave.

Pending approval from the federal government, Fresno County health officials expect the first round of doses as early as December 15.

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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