COVID-19

Fresno County Jail (file photo)

 

Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 response this week shifted to eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley, where he is now sending support teams and $52 million in aid to assist with testing, contact tracing and other containment measures.

 

This week on Valley Edition: We learn more about an organization in Fresno that’s buying crops from small farmers to help offset the huge losses growers are experiencing due to COVID-19.

Plus, a man currently incarcerated at Avenal State Prison describes the toll that COVID-19 has taken on life behind bars, including months without seeing loved ones. 

 

And documentary filmmakers tell us what it’s like inside the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield.

 

A second person detained at the ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as other detainees at Mesa Verde are participating in a labor strike. 

 

Christian Orellana, 22, suffers from a liver disease. His attorney Ambar Tovar with the Removal Defense Project in Bakersfield said Orellana had a fever of 101 degrees on Wednesday and tested positive for COVID the same day.

 

Ezra David Ramero / KVPR

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are more likely to get COVID-19 than in other service industries. They’re also facing job losses, according to a new study released Tuesday. 

 The COVID-19 Farmworkers Study surveyed 900 farmworkers about their work conditions, health care access, and pay during the pandemic. Nayamin Martinez, executive director for the Central California Environmental Justice Network, said 43% of the farmworkers surveyed reported not receiving face masks from their employers. 

As COVID-19 outbreaks in food production plants continue to make workers sick in the San Joaquin Valley, employees at one plant outside Bakersfield are calling on the State Attorney General to step in.

Primex Farms in Wasco employs around 400 people. As of last Wednesday, 150 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and over 70 had gone back to work, a company spokesman said. 

 

But Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer for the United Farm Workers, said workers did not find out about the outbreak through their employer.

 

Rebecca Sohn; CalMatters

One of the cornerstones of the COVID-19 response is contact tracing – when teams of people track down and get in touch with close contacts of those who have tested positive. In order to progress in reopening, Governor Gavin Newsom has required every county health department to take on 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents.

Naveen Alasaad sits at her dining table in her Fresno home catching up on the day with three of her six children. Their conversations are often a mixture of Arabic and English and on this night, the topics range from online school to the pandemic. 

 

Saint Agnes Medical Center

This week, California hit a grim milestone: it now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any state in the country, a record perhaps inevitable given that it is also the country’s most populous state. Nonetheless, hospitalizations and ICU rates continue to rise statewide, and here in the San Joaquin Valley, as in the rest of the state, the disease has now infected more than 1 out of every 100 residents. 

The Darling Hotel and Katie Flinn

Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with the owners of two local businesses to find out how they are adapting their business models in light of COVID-19. She interviewed the owner of COIL Yoga, Katie Flinn, who switched her classes to online and permanently closed her Fresno studio in May. Shock also spoke with brothers Matt and Bob Ainley, co-owners of the Darling Hotel which opened in downtown Visalia on July 1.  

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: For Syrian and Hmong refugees in the Valley, language barriers can make understanding the pandemic especially difficult. We hear from two language translators who share some of the challenges these communities face.

 

And some small businesses in the Valley are pivoting their business models in reaction to the pandemic. 

Plus, we also talk to a reporter for CalMatters whose investigation into Merced County’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts has ruffled some feathers. 

Kelly Bearden and Rich Mostert

As businesses throughout the Valley struggle due to COVID-19, many small businesses and entrepreneurs are turning to their local Small Business Development Centers, or SBDCs, for help accessing capital and reimagining their business models. Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Rich Mostert, director of the Valley Community SBDC and Kelly Bearden, director of the CSU Bakersfield SBDC, about how small businesses in the Valley are meeting this moment.

In accordance with Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent order, the Fresno Unified School District announced Friday, it will be shifting to online instruction for at least the beginning of the fall semester. Some parents will have a choice between two online options.

 

Valley Children's Hospital / Kaweah Delta Healthcare District

As hospitalizations due to COVID-19 continue to rise, Valley Children’s Hospital has made a creative offer: It will accept pediatric patients from area hospitals to make way for adults suffering from COVID-19. This COVID update for the week of July 13-17 features excerpts from a conversation with David Christensen, Chief Physician Executive of Valley Children’s Hospital.

Fresno County Behavioral Health Department

 

In June, 17 people in Fresno County died by suicide, a number that the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department revealed is the highest of any month since at least 2017. It’s made all the more stark by the fact that early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, suicides had dropped significantly.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

 

People experiencing homelessness often rely on the hospital emergency room for medical care. In Porterville, Vera Miles has done it multiple times. She’s lived under the trees along the Tule River in Porterville for five years. The 60-year old shares the space with her partner. She says she isn’t worried about getting the coronavirus.

 

“I think we're safer down here than anywhere actually,” says Miles. “With this going on, I'd rather be here.”

Arynne Gilbert, Kelly Rauch, Kristie Leyba and Peggy Munoz

 

K-12 districts throughout the Valley have been grappling with how to educate students in the fall without contributing to the spread of COVID-19. To learn more about how Fresno Unified School District teachers are reacting, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with elementary music teacher Peggy Munoz, Roosevelt High School applied medical science teacher Kelly Rauch and English teachers Kristie Leyba from Edison High School and Arynne Gilbert from Sunnyside High School.

 

Schools in most California counties are unlikely to open by the start of the school year under a new plan announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom today.

The thirty counties on the state’s monitoring list would be prohibited from allowing in-person instruction at schools ... until they are no longer on the list.

Newsom included a carveout for elementary schools to reopen, but only if a superintendent requests a waiver and a local health officer approves it.

Newsom expects remote learning to engage students despite challenges with getting kids computers and internet access.

On Wednesday, the Clovis Unified School District voted to allow parents to choose between sending their kids to school five days a week or participating in online-learning. While many parents say they are on board, some parents are torn. 

 

Elvira Galindo’s daughter will be a freshman at Clovis North High School this fall. She said when she heard the district’s decision, she was shocked. 

 

 

On Tuesday, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against McFarland and the company GEO barring them from populating a new detention center. The order comes after a lawsuit highlighted misconduct. 

In April, the McFarland City Council voted to turn two empty state prisons into for-profit detention centers run by the GEO group. The council’s decision violated state laws according to Grisel Ruiz, the supervising attorney for the lawsuit. 

 

Kaweah Delta Health Care District

 

Earlier this week, Kaweah Delta Healthcare District reported a record high of 68 COVID-19 patients in its hospital beds. Soon, however, the Visalia hospital and at least two others in the San Joaquin Valley will be receiving help from the armed services.

 

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