Madi Bolanos

Reporter

Madi Bolanos is the immigration and underserved communities reporter at Valley Public Radio. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border. Originally from Fresno, she is happy to be back reporting on important issues in the San Joaquin Valley. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We’ll hear firsthand accounts of how COVID-19 has impacted conditions for those working in the fields.

We also talk to a reporter who spent three weeks in Kern County’s corner of the Mojave Desert. Her new podcast investigates false promises of wealth in California City. 

And, we discuss what will happen to Valley renters out of work because of COVID-19 and potentially facing homelessness when the state’s eviction moratorium is lifted.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above. 

 

The City of Fresno’s response rate to the 2020 census is lower than the state average of 63.5%. Right now, 62.3% of households have responded, but the rate falls below 50% in certain Fresno zip codes.

This week on Valley Edition: We learn more about an organization in Fresno that’s buying crops from small farmers to help offset the huge losses growers are experiencing due to COVID-19.

Plus, a man currently incarcerated at Avenal State Prison describes the toll that COVID-19 has taken on life behind bars, including months without seeing loved ones. 

 

And documentary filmmakers tell us what it’s like inside the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield.

 

A second person detained at the ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as other detainees at Mesa Verde are participating in a labor strike. 

 

Christian Orellana, 22, suffers from a liver disease. His attorney Ambar Tovar with the Removal Defense Project in Bakersfield said Orellana had a fever of 101 degrees on Wednesday and tested positive for COVID the same day.

 

Ezra David Ramero / KVPR

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are more likely to get COVID-19 than in other service industries. They’re also facing job losses, according to a new study released Tuesday. 

 The COVID-19 Farmworkers Study surveyed 900 farmworkers about their work conditions, health care access, and pay during the pandemic. Nayamin Martinez, executive director for the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said 43% of the farmworkers surveyed reported not receiving face masks from their employers. 

As COVID-19 outbreaks in food production plants continue to make workers sick in the San Joaquin Valley, employees at one plant outside Bakersfield are calling on the State Attorney General to step in.

Primex Farms in Wasco employs around 400 people. As of last Wednesday, 150 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and over 70 had gone back to work, a company spokesman said. 

 

But Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer for the United Farm Workers, said workers did not find out about the outbreak through their employer.

 

Naveen Alasaad sits at her dining table in her Fresno home catching up on the day with three of her six children. Their conversations are often a mixture of Arabic and English and on this night, the topics range from online school to the pandemic. 

 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: For Syrian and Hmong refugees in the Valley, language barriers can make understanding the pandemic especially difficult. We hear from two language translators who share some of the challenges these communities face.

 

And some small businesses in the Valley are pivoting their business models in reaction to the pandemic. 

Plus, we also talk to a reporter for CalMatters whose investigation into Merced County’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts has ruffled some feathers. 

Fresno’s new Police Reform Commission is 30 days into its 90 day timeline to produce a list of recommendations on police reform to the city. On Wednesday, some of its members provided an update to the Communities for a New California Education Fund.  

In accordance with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent order, the Fresno Unified School District announced Friday, it will be shifting to online instruction for at least the beginning of the fall semester. Some parents will have a choice between two online options.

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: As COVID-19 cases rise, what’s it like for teachers as they prepare to go back to school? Local educators discuss balancing their concerns about student learning with their own personal safety.  

Plus, we go to Tulare County, where a team of doctors and students are using medical care to connect people living on the streets to housing.   

And we hear from Hugo Morales who recently received a National Heritage Fellowship. Listen to these stories and more on the podcast above.

 

On Wednesday, the Clovis Unified School District voted to allow parents to choose between sending their kids to school five days a week or participating in online-learning. While many parents say they are on board, some parents are torn. 

 

Elvira Galindo’s daughter will be a freshman at Clovis North High School this fall. She said when she heard the district’s decision, she was shocked. 

 

 

On Tuesday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against McFarland and the company GEO barring them from populating a new detention center. The order comes after a lawsuit highlighted misconduct. 

In April, the McFarland City Council voted to turn two empty state prisons into for-profit detention centers run by the GEO group. The council’s decision violated state laws according to Grisel Ruiz, the supervising attorney for the lawsuit. 

 

 

The Kern County Sheriff’s Department has agreed to collaborate with a community-led advisory council, officials announced on Tuesday. It will be the first of its kind for the county.

Arleana Waller, the founder of MLK CommUNITY, led the initiative to create the advisory council. She said the main goal is to have a diverse panel of community members to review policies within the department. 

 

In early July, the Visalia Unified School District removed Black Lives Matter posters placed by students along a fence outside El Diamante High School.  While some saw this act as silencing free speech, the district says it was trying to protect students. Now the district is creating a new space for students to engage.

 

Brandon Gridiron is the district’s Administrator of Equity. He says the decision to take down the signs came solely out of concern for the safety of the students after several adults became aggressive.

 

 

On the this week's Valley Edition: Are Valley hospitals prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients? We talk with a local doctor about how they’re staying on top of growing patient loads. And a palliative care doctor tells us why he wants to change people's minds about the coronavirus.

 

Plus, we look at Fresno’s Civil War Reenactment. The Fresno County Historical Society event is cancelled due to COVID-19, but when it returns next year, it’s going to look very different.

 

As positive case numbers continue to climb, FUSD announced Thursday plans to reopen schools in the fall. However, parents will have the option to continue online learning for their children or send them back to a school campus.

 

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson announced parents must fill out a survey choosing which learning environment is best suited for their children before July 31st.

 

 

 

People detained at a Bakersfield ICE Processing Facility began a hunger strike last Friday, after learning a nurse who worked there tested positive for COVID-19. Detainees are demanding ICE release them or provide a healthier environment.

 

Roughly 70 people across all four dorms at the Mesa Verde Detention Center are hunger striking, said Susan Beaty, a fellow with Centro Legal in Oakland. She says she’s worried not enough people are being tested for COVID-19.

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: We take you inside a church in Fresno where the priest is considered a healer by some and by others, a sexual predator. 

We talk to the KQED journalist who reported the story about how she gained the trust of the alleged victims, and the reaction from the congregation now that the report is out. 

Plus, an update on why bars and indoor dining are on hold in many counties. Listen to those stories and more in the podcast above. 

Joel Martinez

As COVID-19 cases in the San Joaquin Valley continue to climb, the Fresno County Department of Agriculture recently secured nearly one million masks to help protect the county’s agricultural workers.  

 

Melissa Cregan, the agricultural commissioner for the county, said the masks came from California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and the Office of Emergency Services.

 

“We’ve probably received over 800,000 of the face coverings and we’ve distributed probably over 700,000 of those,” said Cregan.  

 

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