Laura Tsutsui

Reporter & Producer

Laura Tsutsui is a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Today Laura covers local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produces the weekly news program “Valley Edition.” 

With the Valley Public Radio news team, Laura has won multiple Golden Mike Awards from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California, and been a California Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. In addition to reporting for KVPR, her work has been heard on KQED’s “The California Report” and WHYY’s health podcast, “The Pulse.” 

A Fresno native, Laura graduated from California State University, Fresno as a member of the Smittcamp Family Honors College with a degree in Media, Communication and Journalism.

Cornerstone Church Facebook

A downtown Fresno Church said Wednesday it intends to defy Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders to limit attendance to 100 people or 25 percent capacity, depending on which is smaller.

Pastor Jim Franklin said Cornerstone Church will accommodate up to 350 people this Sunday, which is a quarter of what the church can hold, but far more than what the state allows. Franklin said the governor’s rules unfairly limit churches.

New Wrinkles Website

 

 

Normally, a group of singing, dancing senior citizens would be taking the stage at Fresno City College starting this month. But the group dubbed “New Wrinkles” has postponed its 2020 season, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the group is staying connected and performing solo on Youtube, in a series called, “New Wrinkles Unplugged.”

On this week’s Valley Edition: What is it like to run a family farm during a pandemic? We talk to local growers about the challenges. 

And Tulare County voted to open up businesses this week despite being one of the hardest hit areas in the state. A Visalia intensive care unit doctor tells us the recipe for staying safe is pretty straightforward.

Plus: The cast of a long-running Fresno variety show that features senior citizens takes its talent to YouTube. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

 

City of Fresno Facebook

With state approval, dine-in restaurants can now reopen in Fresno County, as long as measures like social distancing and employee face coverings are used. This comes just after the city of Fresno announced an end to its shelter-in-place order, starting Tuesday.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said the decision to end the order was not made half-heartedly.

Fresno County Department of Public Health Website

Fresno County’s Public Health Department announced a county-wide mask recommendation this week that takes effect Friday. Officials say it’s one more layer of protection as the county starts to reopen.

At a media update Wednesday afternoon, Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra compared wearing masks to using speed bumps, helmets, and seatbelts. 

Calwa Recreation and Park District Facebook

As shelter-in-place continues, parks are one outlet for residents to stretch their legs and clear their heads. For the ninth year in a row, however, Fresno’s acreage and investment in parks ranks near the bottom compared to the largest 100 cities in the nation.

Courtesy of Tali Whelan

Tali Whelan is a registered nurse. 

“I have worked the long 12-hour shifts in the past, and so I know how difficult it can be to be on your feet for so long and constantly on the go,” said Whelan. 

She normally works in a dermatology office, but right now, because it’s not busy, she’s on furlough. So she started a one-woman, local chapter of Front Line Appreciation Group, or FLAG.

Courtesy of Diana Vidales

Over the next month, many students will be graduating from college, but without the traditional pomp and circumstance or cap and gown. So we asked two students and their mothers about missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what songs come to mind when they reflect on their journey.  

We spoke to Greyson Canterbury and his mom Kim Canterbury who live in Visalia. Greyson is a Fresno State Dean’s Medalist and is planning to go to Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps Volunteer, though the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed those plans.  

On this week’s Valley Edition: How are students in the San Joaquin Valley keeping up with their studies from home? We talk to education reporters about the challenge of distance learning and how access to technology deepens educational inequity.

Also, many college graduations are taking place this weekend and over the next month. What’s it like for students without the traditional pomp and circumstance?

Plus, we hear from a small town mayor about leading a mostly farm worker community through the pandemic.

Fresno State

Nursing facilities have been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks, and have changed visitor policies to reduce the spread of the disease. So how can older adults still maintain social connections? 

Helen Miltiades, director of Fresno State’s Gerontology Program, says families are visiting their older relatives at nursing homes by standing outside and waving at them through the safety of a window. 

Courtesy of Benfie Liu

A couple weeks ago, we told you about how the Central California Blood Center is collecting plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. Since then, a number of people have stepped forward to donate, including Benfie Liu. 

Liu is 29 years old and a medical resident at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia. She works in emergency medicine, but she never expected to encounter a pandemic, let alone get the virus. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: How are people in the Valley staying fed during the pandemic? We hear about the growing reliance on food pantries, and also get an update on business from local restaurants.

And despite the pandemic, the 2020 Census is still happening. Community organizations are figuring out new ways to reach the hardest-to-count areas, from online messaging to working with churches. 

Rudy Parris Facebook

This weekend, why not tune into a concert from home? Visalia musician Rudy Parris has been hosting live stream performances on his Facebook page every Friday and Saturday night for the past six weeks. He plays a little of everything: country, classic rock, and even his own songs. Parris is known for his time on the competition show, “The Voice,” and has spent the last year singing with the Buckaroos, the backup band of Bakersfield country legend Buck Owens.

U.S. Census Bureau Website

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the census is still taking place. But so far only half of the families in the San Joaquin Valley have responded. In contrast, 58 percent of California residents have responded to the census as of Monday.

Mariposa County confirmed its first coronavirus case last Tuesday. Within two days, the total number jumped to 13. Despite the rapid increase, county officials said they’re containing the spread using contact tracing.

Health Director Dr. Eric Sergienko said his department was ready to act when the first case showed up. Within 24 hours, a team of two nurses and three sheriff’s detectives tracked down more than 20 people, all of whom had been in contact with the first patient when she was contagious. Twelve of them had the virus.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It’s hard enough for any kid to shelter in place. They can't go to school, do team sports, or physically hang out with their friends. But for foster kids already struggling to maintain relationships, social distancing can be even more challenging. 

Renee is 15 years old, loves the “Twilight” series, and wants to be a social worker when she grows up. 

City of Fresno Facebook

The city of Fresno is extending its shelter-in-place order through the end of May. The extension includes a provision requiring residents to wear face coverings when working or out on essential business, like grocery shopping. 

Eva Scow's YouTube Channel

As we go into the weekend, we wanted to leave you with a new tune, and maybe some inspiration. Fresno musician Eva Scow has been sheltering in place like the rest of us, but says she’s using the time to write more of her own music. She’s been experimenting with recording and production, and she just released a song called “Mambo” on YouTube, where she plays all of the instruments. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: How do we navigate our complicated emotions in the middle of this global health crisis? We talk with Fresno-based author Armen Bacon about how our collective feelings look a lot like grief. 

We also hear from a high school student in foster care about the struggles of social distancing, from not seeing her siblings to missing out on classroom interaction. 

Later, the Kern County Public Health Department reacts to a call to reopen the economy after two Bakersfield doctors drew national attention. 

Fresno County Department of Public Health Facebook

In lieu of its regular media briefing Friday, the Fresno County Department of Public Health held a virtual town hall where community members could submit their own questions about the coronavirus. The meeting was live-streamed on Facebook. 

One person asked via the comments how to get a test if they’re uninsured. Dr. Rais Vorha, interim health officer for the County, said that based on his understanding and the federal government: “The testing will be covered, that shouldn’t stop you from getting tested.”

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