News

Soreath Hok / Valley Public Radio

Along Fern Avenue in the Tower District, businesses are boarded up, some lined with graffiti. There’s trash piled in the doorways.

But on this sunny Saturday afternoon, volunteers move brooms along the sidewalk and sweep the debris into boxes. There’s an upbeat feeling about their work. 

 

 

One of the cleaning crew is Kacey Auston. She grew up in the Tower and is now leasing the former Bank of America building on this street. It’s still empty but she plans on opening a marijuana dispensary called Cookies Fresno. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: How the business community in Fresno’s Tower District has adjusted to the pandemic, and the incoming tenants that could change the face of the neighborhood. 

Plus, Black business owners are finding strength through community as they work to adapt their operating models to the pandemic.

 

We also hear about the Fresno State Art Song Festival, where poetry, musical composition and singing converge. 

 

County of Kern Facebook page

 

Shipments of more than 15,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine promised to the San Joaquin Valley have been delayed this week, thanks to severe weather that has snarled shipping and distribution networks in the central and eastern parts of the country.

“All of our doses for last week were held up because of weather,” or about 6,000 doses, said Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan during a media call on Friday.

Early on in the pandemic, the state of California put an emphasis on equity in its pandemic response, requiring specific levels of testing and outreach in disadvantaged census tracts in order for counties to advance through the state’s reopening blueprint.

Now, obstacles to vaccine access have introduced the potential for new disparities, and newly published state data shows what many have feared: that the vaccine isn’t being distributed equitably among racial and ethnic groups.

Clay River

Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada foothills are home to the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, but the tribe has been enmeshed in a decades-long battle for recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. To learn more about the current status of that fight, and how it’s been shaped by COVID-19, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Clay Muwin River, managing director of the Miwumati Family Healing Center.

Arthur Moye and Chantel Wapner

Restrictions on businesses designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been devastating for some entrepreneurs. But some Black-owned businesses say the power of community has helped them to adapt, and even thrive, in these uncertain times. To learn more, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke to Nick Hill, president and CEO of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce, Dee Slade, President of the African American Network of Kern County, Arthur Moye, CEO of Full Circle Brewery in Fresno, and Chanel Wapner, owner of Just My Essentials in Old Town Clovis.

 

The Fresno City Council will vote Thursday on a plan to suspend bus fares throughout the city. Councilmembers Tyler Maxwell, Esmeralda Soria and Nelson Esparza are sponsoring the Zero Fare Clean Up Act. Maxwell says it addresses equity issues in Fresno, when it comes to reliable transportation. He believes the city is already way behind.

StoryCorps

In this StoryCorps San Joaquin segment, 53-year-old Joan Yamate Taketa talks with her lifelong friend Celeste Johnston, 54, about what she has learned of her paternal family history. The two also talk about their decades-long close friendship. Joan calls Celeste the “repository of a lot of her memories” and shares a story about her father. When Joan’s father was a young boy in the United States, he travelled with his mother to Japan to retrieve his older sister, who had been going to school near Hiroshima. And then Pearl Harbor was bombed. Joan tells Celeste the rest of the story.

When Governor Gavin Newsom stopped in Fresno earlier this week, he was widely anticipated to announce that Fresno would be the site of the state’s newest mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic. The clinic, which he had alluded to earlier in the week, is expected to be run in partnership between the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and it would bring in thousands of vaccine doses each day beyond what the county already receives from the state.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

After hearing more than 100 public comments, the Kern County Planning Commission voted Friday to pass the recommendation for a proposed oil and gas ordinance that would allow the permitting of up to 40,000 new oil and gas wells over the next 20 years.

 

Representatives from the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the League of United Latin American Citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance citing jobs for Latinx community members as a top reason. 

 

But the majority of the comments voiced concern over the new ordinance. 

 

Kristy Noble

Next week marks the one year anniversary of the fire in Porterville that destroyed the city’s public library and took the lives of firefighter Patrick Jones and Fire Captain Raymond Figueroa. It was a tragedy that shook the community and left its residents without the many resources a library provides. But a group of community members have launched a project to fill part of that void.

Two electric lifts move alongside a freshly painted mural on 7th street in downtown Sanger.  

Painters are doing touch-ups on the piece created by Valley artist Omar “Super” Huerta. 

In the center of the mural is Tom Flores. On either side of him, two football players in Raider colors. 

 

“I think it’s because of him I became a Raider fan. Because I knew from my family telling me, ‘hey that guy is from Sanger.’ And it’s like ‘OK, I’m a Raider fan now,’” says former Sanger Mayor, Frank Gonzalez. 

Jeanne Logan

When Black Americans fled the oppression of Jim Crow as part of the Great Migration, some came to the Central Valley to establish settlements like Fairmead and Allensworth. Among the largest of those communities was Cookseyville. It was founded by Sid and Olevia Cooksey, who purchased several acres of farmland in Atwater and invited family members to help them establish their own, self-sufficient community. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Sid and Olevia’s granddaughter Jeanne Logan, about her memories of growing up in Cookseyville.

On this week's Valley Edition: A small initiative in Fresno County to help a few elderly women stay safe during the pandemic keeps expanding. Now, Save Las Senioras delivers groceries to over 60 recipients in rural areas.

Plus, we remember Cookseyville, one of the Valley’s most celebrated Black settlements. 

 

And one year after fire destroyed Porterville’s library, a handful of tiny libraries are springing up in its place. 

 

Marlen Miranda juggles three bags of groceries as she peers through the screen door of an apartment in Kerman. 

Esther Velarde, 92, comes to the door. Miranda tells her she’s not allowed to enter the house for safety reasons so she leaves the bags filled with milk, eggs, beans and other groceries on her doorstep. The pandemic, Velarde tells Miranda, has taken a toll on her mental health. 

 

“There are days when I feel so bad that I don’t open the door for nobody,” she says.  

 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

During a visit to Fresno on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said vaccinating the Central Valley against COVID-19 is a “top priority.”

 

Though Newsom was widely expected to announce a new federal government-partnered mass vaccination clinic in the city during his stop at the Fresno Fairgrounds, he instead shared that the state had selected a COVID-19 testing site at Reedley College to be converted into a community vaccination clinic.

 

 

 

This year’s theme at the World Ag Expo: Ag is Essential. Presentations will center on how the industry has pivoted to continue operating during a pandemic. 

Jennifer Fawkes, marketing manager for the World Ag Expo, hopes the event will help people better understand how food is grown and transported during the pandemic. Many exhibits will focus on tools and technological innovations in the ag industry.

On this week's Valley Edition: A new study out of UC San Francisco shows which essential workers are most at risk of death due to COVID-19. At the top of the list: food and agriculture.

Plus, what are the limits of free speech, especially when that right collides with the spread of potentially dangerous misinformation on social media?

And we hear about the Fresno Philharmonic’s Digital Masterworks Series. 

Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above.

 

Joel Martinez

Since the start of the pandemic, 43,000 Californians have officially died due to COVID-19. But a new research paper by a team of epidemiologists at the University of California, San Francisco suggests that the true death toll due to the virus is likely much higher, after studying deaths in California over an 8-month period from March to October.

 

So far, San Joaquin Valley residents have received nearly 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine—a sum that may sound high, but falls far short of the average per capita rate reported elsewhere in California. Plus, for the second week in a row, a low vaccine supply has kept many of the Valley’s mass vaccination clinics either open far below capacity, or closed entirely to people seeking to receive their first dose.

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