COVID-19

County of Kern Facebook page

 

Over the last few weeks, the local COVID-19 landscape has changed dramatically. In the San Joaquin Valley, average daily cases have dropped to a fraction of what they were in late July and early August, and hospitals are regaining the beds necessary for their normal, non-COVID volume of patients. Dozens of people are still dying of the virus each week, however, and health officials are on high alert for bumps in cases associated with Labor Day festivities.

County of Kern Facebook page

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams visited Kern County on Monday for a roundtable with local industry leaders and business owners to discuss COVID-19. Amidst messages of hope and progress, Adams delivered a caution about reopening too early and doubled down on mask wearing.

 

During a press event after the roundtable, the Surgeon General shared his concerns about the public health and mental health concerns related to the virus and the vulnerability of communities of color to the disease, as well as the need to reopen the economy.

 

Healthy Fresno County Facebook page

 

Over the last month, the spread of COVID-19 in the San Joaquin Valley has slowed. But not all measures of the disease have improved, and health officials say it’s no time for the community to let down its guard.

Fresno County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra is concerned about the virus spreading during Labor Day weekend. In a media call on Tuesday, he said he knows it’s hard to hear, but non-essential gatherings should be cancelled.

 

 

As of Sept. 1, some small businesses hit hard by the pandemic can receive financial relief through new grants from Fresno County. Fresno County approved $250,000 in grants for minority and women-owned businesses. The money comes from the CARES Act.

Dora Westerlund is president of the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation. She's spearheading the initiative and said some businesses have already reached out for help.  

 

Andrew Nixon - file photo / Capital Public Radio

Most counties in the San Joaquin Valley have been on the state’s COVID-19 watch list for months, and are still restricted under the state’s new rating system.

The Latinx community continues to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. That’s why the Kern County Public Health Department recently created a first-of-its-kind task force to address this issue.  

Monica Lam / KQED

More than 1,100 people at the Fresno County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The running tally of infections at the county-run complex actually surpasses those at all but two state prisons in California. But unlike the state’s careful tracking and reporting of cases at prisons and nursing homes, data on COVID-19 infections in county jails have not been consistently collected or made readily available to the public.

As fires continue to ravage Northern California, farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley now have to protect themselves from poor air quality on top of COVID-19. One farm worker says it’s made working in the fields even harder.

 

Oralia Bautista is 34 years old. Six days a week she commutes with her husband from Fresno to pick tomatoes in Firebaugh. While working, she always wears a mask.

 

“It helps filter out the bad air we’re breathing, but it's also hard because well, it’s hard to breathe with the mask on to begin with,” she said.

 

Fresno County officials announced the results from January’s homeless point-in-time count Wednesday, including a significant rise in unhoused individuals. 

This year’s annual point-in-time count found 3,251 people experiencing homelessness throughout Fresno County. That’s about a 50 percent increase from 2019, when the number of people counted was 2,131. However, more people than usual were counted in shelters.

Facebook Screenshot, Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau

Fresno County has filed an injunction against the Reedley-based private, Christian schools that began in-person classes earlier this month, despite prohibitive state guidelines. 

Supervisor Steve Brandau held a press conference Monday afternoon to oppose the lawsuit against Immanuel Schools, which serve kindergarten through twelfth grade students.

“It isn’t because Immanuel is a private school, a Christian school or anything of the sort. I feel the same way about any school, private or public,” said Brandau.

Courtesy of Steve Thao

A documentary produced in Burma in the late 1990s shows two young Hmong women in traditional dress dancing. They’re encircled by other villagers and everyone is singing a goodbye song to filmmaker Su Thao.

“He went to Burma to find, kind of like the lost Hmong people there. He did a documentary. The whole town came out to welcome him. He had a conversation with the village elders,” says Steve Thao, Su Thao's oldest son. Su died of COVID-19 last month and his funeral is this weekend in Fresno.

On this week’s Valley Edition: A well known Hmong filmmaker who documented the lives of Hmong communities all over Asia died of COVID-19 in July. With his funeral this week in Fresno, his family recalls his legacy. 

Plus, a century after white women gained the right to vote, we explore the history of the 19th Amendment, and how it changed the U.S. forever. 

California Department of Public Health

California’s COVID-19 pandemic has evolved tremendously since it began in March, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that residents of skilled nursing facilities remain particularly at risk of severe infection and death. Although COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities account for only 3 percent of the state’s overall caseload, almost 20 percent of the state’s deaths have occurred among these vulnerable residents.

Fresno American Indian Health Project

While reports show that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects communities of color, gaps in data have made it difficult to quantify the impact of the virus on indigenous populations. To get a better sense of how Native Americans in the Valley are faring during the pandemic, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Selina De La Peña, CEO of the Fresno American Indian Health Project.

Almost half the people tested for COVID-19 last Wednesday at Mesa Verde had positive results. 

Thirty two out of 70 people tested positive. Asif Qazi, who’s been detained at Mesa Verde since February, says he’s not surprised.

“It’s not possible to social distance in a place where you have to use the same sinks, toilets and showers as other people,” Qazi said. “When you line up it’s not like your lining up six feet apart. It’s shoulder to shoulder.”  

Rachael Goldring Bell

A global pandemic like COVID-19 can be risky for anyone, but the risk level is on a totally different scale for Rachael Goldring Bell of Clovis. Born with congenital heart disease, she was later diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and an immune disorder, all of which increase her risk of a severe bout of COVID-19.

Ever since a trip to Southern California in early March, the 27-year-old psychology student hasn’t left her house for fear of contracting the virus. Here's an audio postcard of her experience sheltering in place with her husband, her parents, two cats and two dogs.

Fresno County COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard

After announcing that a data snafu had resulted in an undercount of thousands of new COVID-19 cases, state health officials said this week the problem’s been resolved—at least at the state level. County health departments are left to clean up the data that feeds into their own county dashboards.

On this week’s Valley Edition: One Clovis woman hasn’t left her house since visiting Southern California in March. We hear how she’s been sheltering in place with three disorders that put her at risk of severe COVID-19.

And distance learning is a new experience even for seasoned public school teachers. But what about educators who have just started their careers? What’s it like for them? 

And later, we speak to a Guardian reporter who is investigating how agricultural workers have been hit hard by COVID-19. 

Vivian Ho and Monica Velez

This week, The Guardian published the first in a series of reports on why COVID-19 cases have surged in the Central Valley. Valley Public Radio Host Kathleen Schock spoke with reporter Vivian Ho about her investigation into how the virus spread among agricultural workers. Also joining the conversation is UC Merced Associate Professor of Sociology Edward Flores, who recently co-published a study on the connection between low-wage employment and the coronavirus.

At least 10 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield as of Monday, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Advocates say the people detained are not getting proper medical attention.

Christian Orellana, 22, contracted the virus in late July. On Saturday, he fainted at Mesa Verde. His lawyer, Ambar Tovar with the Defense Project in Bakersfield, said officials sent him to his bed even though she asked that a doctor examine him. 

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