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Vaccine Supply Whiplash, Plus The Latest On COVID In Valley Prisons – Virus Update For Feb. 26

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
Avenal State Prison

Ever since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, every week has brought news of extremes, with success stories followed by supply problems and other hiccups in access and distribution. This week was no different, and included supply disruptions due to winter storms as well as an unexpected boost from the governor.

Plus, despite the fact that new infections have slowed, case totals at three local correctional facilities—the Fresno County Jail, Avenal State Prison and the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran—remain among the largest in the country. How did they get there, and what could the vaccine mean for the incarcerated population?

This week’s COVID-19 update navigates the whiplash in vaccine news from the last week, plus takes a deep dive intoKerry Klein’s recent collaboration with Kaiser Health News and California Healthline on COVID in prisons. The discussion features excerpts from interviews with Ed Welker and Thai Tran, two men incarcerated at Avenal State Prison.

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 Feb. 25:

As of 1 week previous, Feb. 18:

As of 4 weeks previous, Jan. 28:

  • 3,017 total deaths out of 284,224 total cases
  • 1,192 people hospitalized and 258 in ICUs
  • 250 deaths reported in the last week*
  • 1,642 average cases reported daily in last week
  • *this includes a backlog from December in Kings County that was only added to data dashboard this week

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.