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It’s Been A Year Since COVID-19 Hit The Valley - Virus Update For Mar. 19

Community Medical Centers
Doctors treat a patient with COVID-19 in December 2020 at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.


Like in so many places across the U.S., the coronavirus pandemic crept up on the San Joaquin Valley. Some of the region’s first official cases were linked to outbreaks on cruise ships that came into port in March, but as we later learned, the virus was already circulating long beforehand.

Then began the slow-moving disaster. Cities and counties issued emergency orders, Governor Newsom instituted a statewide lockdown, and schools and businesses shuttered. Meanwhile, the death toll at nursing homes steadily rose and it became apparent that essential workers, many of whom are people of color, were risking their health and sometimes their lives to keep stores stocked and packages delivered to our doorsteps.


This week’s COVID-19 update brings us back to March 2020 and explores some of the pandemic’s biggest effects on the San Joaquin Valley, with a focus on hospitals, food and ag, and prisons, as well as the whiplash we all felt under constantly shifting health guidelines and reopening policies. The interview features excerpts of conversations with Don Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office  who’s involved in many lawsuits regarding health care within California’s prisons, and Rachael Goldring Bell, a student with three chronic diseases who didn’t leave her house for more than 100 days for fear of contracting the coronavirus.


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 March 18:

As of 1 week previous, March 11:

As of 4 weeks previous, Feb. 18:

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.