COVID-19

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Jordan Pulido lost his grandmother to the coronavirus, and says the pandemic has derailed most of his plans for his last year at Fresno State. 

The 22-year-old is studying music education, and this year, he was supposed to perform in the university’s rendition of “Carmina Burana,” travel to Italy, and participate in the Disney College Program in Florida during the fall semester. 

Instead, he’s been home, avoiding outings as much as possible to protect his family. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: COVID-19 cases are soaring at Avenal State Prison, and inmates there say postponed visitations, rule changes, and constant bed moves are taking a psychological toll. 

Plus, honey bees have already been hit hard by disease, drought and development. Now, the Creek Fire has killed millions more. 

We also continue our election coverage, and delve into more propositions. 

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Healthy Fresno County Facebook Page

Last week, Fresno County businesses celebrated that the county had advanced into the red, less restrictive tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. Then, this past Tuesday, they learned that they may be forced to close back up again, as early as next week, if the county’s case rate doesn’t improve. A Kern County administrator warned the same could happen to its residents if they let their guard down too soon.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1,300 people have died of COVID-19 in the seven counties of the southern San Joaquin Valley and foothills, according to official counts by county health departments and the state. The tallies aggregated in those health department dashboards, which represent between one and two percent of all who’ve tested positive for the virus, capture those who were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and whose death certificates listed the virus as a primary cause of death.

 

Fresno County Department of Public Health

 

When we seek to quantify the toll that COVID-19 is taking on our communities, we typically turn to official statistics like confirmed cases, hospitalization rates and, of course, death counts. But what if that final tally is an undercount, and the death toll is really much higher?

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

A museum housed in a former Carnegie Library has closed its doors because it can no longer keep up with the terms of its lease. 

The Hanford Carnegie Museum Nonprofit leased the Carnegie building from the city of Hanford for 45 years. The nonprofit was required to maintain and insure the building, but that’s been costly to do for a century-old structure.

California Blueprint for a Safer Economy

 

After weeks of improving COVID-19 numbers, Fresno County has advanced to the next tier in the state’s reopening framework known as the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

CA Dept of Corrections

As the COVID-19 caseload continues to fall in San Joaquin Valley communities, the opposite trend has been happening inside Avenal State Prison: With more than 2,500 cumulative cases, the facility now has the dubious honor of being the state prison with the highest cumulative case count. More than 250 men currently have active infections, and five have died.

 

Kern County Television Youtube Channel

Earlier this week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to challenge a part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s plan to reopen counties during the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing a data algorithm unfairly penalizes the county.

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.

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