COVID-19

John Fensterwald, Monica Velez and Ema Sasic

This week governor Gavin Newsom announced a revised budget plan to address the more than $54 billion dollar deficit the state is facing in the wake of COVID-19. In his address, Newsom called on the legislature to dramatically reduce funding to public schools. It’s the latest blow to districts already grappling with campus closures and an uncertain future. To learn more about how COVID-19 is impacting education and school budgets, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with education reporters.

Elieth Martinez

The Latinx community is being hit the hardest in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases, according to the latest demographics from the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Fresno State

Nursing facilities have been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks, and have changed visitor policies to reduce the spread of the disease. So how can older adults still maintain social connections? 

Helen Miltiades, director of Fresno State’s Gerontology Program, says families are visiting their older relatives at nursing homes by standing outside and waving at them through the safety of a window. 

Courtesy of Benfie Liu

A couple weeks ago, we told you about how the Central California Blood Center is collecting plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. Since then, a number of people have stepped forward to donate, including Benfie Liu. 

Liu is 29 years old and a medical resident at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia. She works in emergency medicine, but she never expected to encounter a pandemic, let alone get the virus. 

 

 

April Imboden knows many places where people who are experiencing homelessness live in Fresno. On this day, she’s parked her car in an alley near Fruit and Dakota. 

“Do you want some pizza? Do you want a piece of pizza?” she yells from her car. 

She has a couple of boxes she’s purchased from Little Caesars, and she’s passing out slices to folks who might be hungry. 

“What’s your name?” she asks one man. “Ronald,” he says. 

Noriega Hotel Facebook Page

When the news broke in late March that Bakersfield’s Noriega Hotel was closing its doors for good, it sent shock waves through the community. As the oldest Basque restaurant in town, and a winner of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award, the Noriega Hotel was a Bakersfield institution. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Bakersfield Californian reporter Steven Mayer, who was the first to report on the restaurant's closing.

ACT for Women and Girls

Mi Familia Vota is an organization that focuses on Census outreach for communities who typically do not fill out the form. Prior to COVID-19, the organization had planned to co-host events with Fresno Barrios Unidos and the Fresno Unified School District. 

That all came to a screeching halt in mid March when shelter-in-place orders took effect. Mi Familia had to come up with new strategies for reaching out.  

On this week’s Valley Edition: How are people in the Valley staying fed during the pandemic? We hear about the growing reliance on food pantries, and also get an update on business from local restaurants.

And despite the pandemic, the 2020 Census is still happening. Community organizations are figuring out new ways to reach the hardest-to-count areas, from online messaging to working with churches. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 18 women this week detained at the Mesa Verde Detention Center in Bakersfield. But neither the women nor their attorneys were given advance notice to make accommodations. 

Lilian Marquez, 45, was detained at Mesa Verde for 11 months. But on Wednesday, she and another woman were released without explanation. 

Central California Food Bank

COVID-19, and the stay-at-home directives enacted to minimize its spread, have led to a shocking decline in employment. For many, the loss of wages means an increased reliance on food distribution centers. The Central California Food Bank works with churches, community centers and schools to distribute food in Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern and Tulare counties. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with the non-profit’s Chief Operations Officer Natalie Caples about how the coronavirus has escalated the Valley’s hunger crisis. 

Chef Paul's Cafe, Max's Bistro and Bar, and Vino Grille & Spirits

Restaurant dining rooms have been closed since the stay-at-home order was issued in March in response to COVID-19. To learn more about how the dining industry is coping with the pandemic, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with the owners and operators of three well known Fresno restaurants: Chuck Van Fleet from Vino Grille and Spirits, Paul Pearson of Chef Paul’s Cafe and J.J. Wettstead from Max’s Bistro & Bar. 

Central Valley Meat Co.

 

Rural Kings County has seen a large spike in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks. The majority of those cases can be traced back to the Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford.

As of Wednesday, Kings County reported 211 cases of the coronavirus; 138 of them are connected to the meat packing facility, which is still operating.  County Supervisor Doug Verboon says he’s not surprised by the spike.   

It got into the facility, said Verboon. “Someone got the virus and took it into the workplace and it spread pretty fast there.”

U.S. Census Bureau Website

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the census is still taking place. But so far only half of the families in the San Joaquin Valley have responded. In contrast, 58 percent of California residents have responded to the census as of Monday.

Mariposa County confirmed its first coronavirus case last Tuesday. Within two days, the total number jumped to 13. Despite the rapid increase, county officials said they’re containing the spread using contact tracing.

Health Director Dr. Eric Sergienko said his department was ready to act when the first case showed up. Within 24 hours, a team of two nurses and three sheriff’s detectives tracked down more than 20 people, all of whom had been in contact with the first patient when she was contagious. Twelve of them had the virus.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It’s hard enough for any kid to shelter in place. They can't go to school, do team sports, or physically hang out with their friends. But for foster kids already struggling to maintain relationships, social distancing can be even more challenging. 

Renee is 15 years old, loves the “Twilight” series, and wants to be a social worker when she grows up. 

City of Fresno Facebook

The city of Fresno is extending its shelter-in-place order through the end of May. The extension includes a provision requiring residents to wear face coverings when working or out on essential business, like grocery shopping. 

 

May 1 is College Signing Day for many students, although some universities have extended their deadlines. Valley Public Radio’s news director Alice Daniel spoke with three seniors from the farming town of Woodlake about what it’s like to make such an important decision during a pandemic. Selina Lopez-Curiel, Rogelio Chavez and Daniela Frausto-Santoyo are seniors at Woodlake High School; all three will be first-generation college students in the fall. Listen to their audio postcards above.

 

Eva Scow's YouTube Channel

As we go into the weekend, we wanted to leave you with a new tune, and maybe some inspiration. Fresno musician Eva Scow has been sheltering in place like the rest of us, but says she’s using the time to write more of her own music. She’s been experimenting with recording and production, and she just released a song called “Mambo” on YouTube, where she plays all of the instruments. 

On this week’s Valley Edition: How do we navigate our complicated emotions in the middle of this global health crisis? We talk with Fresno-based author Armen Bacon about how our collective feelings look a lot like grief. 

We also hear from a high school student in foster care about the struggles of social distancing, from not seeing her siblings to missing out on classroom interaction. 

Later, the Kern County Public Health Department reacts to a call to reopen the economy after two Bakersfield doctors drew national attention. 

Kern County Public Health Department Facebook Page

This week throughout the San Joaquin Valley calls to lift the stay-at-home order grew louder among some elected officials, business leaders - and even two Bakersfield physicians. So how are public health officials reacting to the growing push to reopen local economies? To find out, FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with Kern County Public Health Department epidemiologist Kimberley Hernandez and public information officer Michelle Corson.

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