COVID-19

Tulare County Sheriff's Office

 

Slowly and steadily, COVID-19 is loosening its grip on the San Joaquin Valley. New cases are dropping, intensive care units are becoming less impacted, and every day, thousands more people are being vaccinated against the virus.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

 

Small groups of men sit outside a Motel 6 just off Highway 99 in Delano. For more than half a year, this is their home. They sit on the stairs or on the grass. One group leans against a fence, surrounding an empty pool. They’re chatting or taking in the sun; some with phones to their ears talking to loved ones back home in Mexico. 

 

Laurin Paskin, Bridgette Wilson, Connie Green and Ashley Bowers

Now that vaccines have become more widely available, it’s easy to forget that ICUs are still full of COVID-19 patients fighting for their lives alongside battle-weary nurses who have been deep in the trenches of this pandemic for nearly a year.

How The West Is Battling COVID-19 And Valley Fever

Mar 3, 2021
Lauren J. Young / Science Friday

This interview was originally broadcast during the January 15, 2021 episode of Science Friday. You can find the original piece here.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has filed a new complaint against the Tulare County Jail for its living conditions during the pandemic, alleging that the jail is failing to adequately test for COVID-19 and that its social distancing policy violates inmates’ constitutional rights. Filed last Thursday in federal court, the supplemental complaint is the latest development in a lawsuit originally brought against the jail last summer.

The Fresno Unified School District announced a potential reopening plan Tuesday for in-person learning. The new agreement between the district and the Fresno Teachers Association outlines a return to a hybrid model that includes in-person instruction by April 6th. 

Superintendent Bob Nelson says the increased ability to vaccinate all district employees changed the conversation. 

“This time last week, I could not have reasonably said we were going to vaccinate everybody by March. Today I can and that’s a huge change,” he said.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Ever since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, every week has brought news of extremes, with success stories followed by supply problems and other hiccups in access and distribution. This week was no different, and included supply disruptions due to winter storms as well as an unexpected boost from the governor.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Armando Celestino walks between rows of grapevines in a Madera County vineyard. He’s handing out small zip lock bags to farm workers filled with hand sanitizer, masks and information on the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Celestino works with Centro Binancional, a community organization that assists those who speak, indigenous languages like Mixtec and Zapotec.

 

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

When news of the pandemic first reached the men incarcerated at Avenal State Prison in central California, inmate Ed Welker said the prevailing mood was panic. “We were like, ‘Yeah, it’s going to come in here and it’s going to spread like wildfire and we’re all going to get it,’” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

 

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the San Joaquin Valley will get a major boost to its COVID-19 vaccine allocation. That’s due in part to the region’s food and ag workers, who now are also receiving some priority access to the vaccine.

Valley counties will now be receiving thousands more doses each week, amounting to an average increase of 58%, thanks to a change in how the state is distributing vaccines.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are facing limited access to resources during the pandemic, according to the second phase of the COVID-19 Farmworker Study funded by the California Institute of Rural Studies. 

Community organizers, like Erica Fernandez Zamora, conducted 63 in-depth interviews with farmworkers across the state. Most are struggling financially. 

 

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