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.

Gena Lew Gong

We’ve recently asked our listeners for audio postcards about how the pandemic is affecting them. Today, we’re going to hear from poet Lee Herrick and writer Lisa Lee Herrick who sent a voice memo from their home.

We also hear from Bakersfield resident Randy Villegas who is sheltering in place. Clovis resident and Fresno State lecturer Gena Lew Gong starts us off with a voice memo describing the threats and racism many Asian-Americans are experiencing right now.   

On this week’s Valley Edition: With COVID-19 cases growing at exponential rates, how are local governments, hospitals and nonprofits dealing with the pandemic? We find out how the virus is shaping preparedness plans in the short and long term.   

And we share personal accounts of how the coronavirus is impacting the lives of the Valley’s residents, and how they’re coping.  

Plus, a single mother of two who is living in a homeless shelter with her family gives us some words of hope.

 

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

It’s hard to practice social distancing when you’re in jail and the close quarters increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus. That’s why one Fresno attorney is trying to get his vulnerable client out.

Armando Toro, 62, has diabetes and high blood pressure. These pre-existing conditions put him at a higher risk of becoming severely ill if he’s infected. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

As COVID-19 case numbers rise, one Fresno-based company has pledged $100,000 to help with grocery shopping.

Volunteers from Bitwise Industries have made close to a hundred trips in Fresno, Madera and Tulare Counties delivering groceries and medications to elderly and immune-compromised people. Vice President Terry Solis said it’s part of the company’s new “Take Care” initiative.

 

Solis said she’s taking the necessary hand-washing and social distancing precautions.

The Fresno Unified School District and all Fresno County Public Library branches are temporarily closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. But despite those closures, one Fresno librarian is still bringing story time to her students, via the web.

On this week's Valley Edition: With children home from school and concern about COVID-19 on the rise, how do parents protect the mental health of their kids? We talk to pediatric psychologist Dr. Amanda Suplee for some guidance.

We also speak with Fresno County Director of Behavioral Health Dawan Utecht, UCSF Fresno emergency room physician Dr. Manavjeet Sidhu, and University of California, Merced economist and professor Ketki Sheth to answer some of the mental health, physical health and economic questions sent in by listeners about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tower Yoga Website

As residents and business owners take on the city of Fresno’s “shelter in place” recommendation, which went into effect Thursday, many are turning to the web to keep their services going. 

The city released a list of “Essential” and “Non-Essential” businesses. Officials are advising residents to cease trips to non-essential businesses, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Grocery and hardware stores made the “Essential” list, but bars and hair salons did not. 

Fresno County Public Library Facebook

Many public and private establishments across the San Joaquin Valley are closing temporarily in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This comes after increasing recommendations from federal, state and local officials to maintain social distancing.

Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties have closed all of their library branches. Fresno’s libraries will be closed until April 14; Kern County libraries will be closed until April 13; and Tulare County libraries will be closed until the end of March. However, patrons can continue to use online library resources. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Fresno Unified Supt Bob Nelson announced Monday that while schools remain closed, meals will continue to be served. 

“The last thing that will go down at Fresno Unified is feeding kids every day,” said Nelson at a press conference.

Every school site offered meals Monday, but Nelson said the district is monitoring where families are picking up meals and will consolidate meal distribution sites, starting Wednesday. 

Fresno County

Fresno County confirmed a second case of COVID-19 Saturday evening. Both cases identified so far have been travel-related. In a press conference Sunday, a county health official said the department is also monitoring up to 70 individuals, to track symptoms. While the risk of community transmission is still low, the best defense is to practice good hygiene: wash hands, avoid large crowds, and stay home if you’re sick. 

Fresno Unified School District

Three Valley districts have made the decision to close their schools starting Monday until April 13: Fresno, Clovis and Central Unified. They’re the latest across the state to announce a blanket closure of schools due to coronavirus concerns.  

In a press conference Friday, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said preserving the health and well-being of students is the district’s priority.   

This week on Valley Edition: COVID-19 cases are on the rise in California, but what does that mean for the San Joaquin Valley? We learn how the disease is affecting our healthcare system, education and the economy and we get some advice on how not to panic. 

We also interview an author whose latest book was inspired by murders in the 1980s committed by the so-called “Lords of Bakersfield.”

And, we check in with StoryCorp San Joaquin. You’ll hear the first of many segments  coming straight from the Valley.

 

StoryCorps

Valley Public Radio has partnered with the personal history project StoryCorps and its 2020 mobile tour. Since February 12, StoryCorps has been in Fresno and Bakersfield documenting the stories of residents in the San Joaquin Valley. As part of our collaboration, we’ll be airing segments over the next year based on some of these recorded conversations.   

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Former Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer will be the city’s next mayor, according to Wednesday afternoon’s election results from Fresno County. In a press conference before City Hall Wednesday, Dyer reiterated his wish to unite the city, and create “One Fresno,” which was his campaign slogan.

In his remarks, Dyer highlighted the need to bring investment and business to the area. Dyer wasn’t specific about where he plans to prioritize development, but said the city can only be as prosperous and successful as its worst neighborhood.

Kings County Public Health Department

Only two COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the San Joaquin Valley: one each in Madera and Fresno counties. Both are related to travel on Princess Cruises. To prevent further spread, public health departments are monitoring at-risk folks daily.  

Not every county publishes the number of monitored individuals, but from those that do in the San Joaquin Valley,  about 40 individuals have been or are being monitored. About ten of those individuals were cleared after not presenting symptoms following two weeks of isolation.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra was in Fresno Friday to remind residents to fill out the 2020 Census. Fresno County is one of the hardest-to-count regions, and Becerra urged residents not to ignore their chance to be represented.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: A new exhibit celebrates a 1970s-era magazine that highlighted the achievements of African Americans in Fresno. We speak with one of its founders about why he started it.

Plus, we delve into the history of Yemeni farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley, and how the death of Nagi Daifallah and Arab nationalism complicated a multicultural movement in the UFW.

We also take a look at what’s new this year at Fresno’s Rogue Festival. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Monica Velez

California’s Primary Election was on Tuesday, and county election departments are still counting ballots. They have 30 days from the election to certify the results.

In the meantime, county election departments are updating results throughout the month, and below we have linked to the county and state websites where you can see the results for yourself as they are updated. 

Congressional Races 

Fresno Rogue Festival

This weekend and next, take a chance on Fresno’s Rogue festival, an annual tradition in the Tower District that has performers and attendees bustling from show to show. 

To preview the fringe festival, we spoke to Donald Munro who covers art and culture in the San Joaquin Valley on his website, The Munro Review. We talk about how the festival has changed over the last 19 years, and how Munro decides what shows to see: he starts with a program, a block of time, and open expectations. 

Madi Bolaños / KVPR

 

Fresno’s former Chief of Police led the city’s mayoral race late Tuesday night according to the county’s early results. By 10:30 p.m., close to a quarter of the votes were in, and more than 54% of them counted in Jerry Dyer’s favor.

At a packed election party at the Elbow Room restaurant, Jerry Dyer said the campaign has been all consuming. 

 

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