Valley COVID-19 Weekly

  • Hosted by Kerry Klein, Kathleen Schock

Weekly COVID-19 updates for California's San Joaquin Valley. Hosted by Kathleen Schock with Valley Public Radio health reporter Kerry Klein.

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.

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.

 

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.

In a surprise move this week, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted shelter-in-place orders for our part of the state, even as San Joaquin Valley residents continue to die of COVID-19 by the hundreds each week. The decision came as a surprise to health officials in at least Fresno County, who said they appreciate that case numbers are finally trending in the right direction but warned against reckless behavior that could drive them back up again.

Today, more people are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine than ever, and county health departments across the San Joaquin Valley have been building up the infrastructure at fairgrounds, schools, clinics and other sites in order to offer thousands of vaccinations each day.

Department of State Hospitals

In the months since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on hospitals, where bedspace is at a minimum and staff are overworked, and prisons, where tight living quarters and mixed enforcement of safety precautions

Valley Children's

 

A month after COVID-19 infections began to surge following the Thanksgiving holiday, the virus continues to devastate the San Joaquin Valley. Hospitals are reporting more patients with COVID-19 than ever, intensive care units continue to report only a handful of open beds each day, and hundreds of healthcare workers who could otherwise be caring for patients or staffing medical facilities are currently unable to work after either testing positive for the virus or entering quarantine following a close exposure.

Community Medical Centers

The first batches of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in the Valley this week, and for many of us, the milestone represents a light at the end of a very long and traumatic tunnel. Healthcare workers with high patient exposure will be the first to receive this initial delivery of 17,000 doses, and the Valley is slated to receive tens of thousands more by the end of December.

Kaweah Delta Health Care District

Five days into a regional stay-at-home order, COVID-19 infections in the San Joaquin Valley are soaring and hospitals are scrambling to make space on floors already crowded with flu patients. On Thursday of this week, the California Department of Public Health estimated that intensive care units in the San Joaquin Valley reported fewer than 2 percent of their beds were available, all while more people are dying of the virus than they have in months.