COVID-19

Fresno County Department of Public Health Website

Fresno County’s Public Health Department announced a county-wide mask recommendation this week that takes effect Friday. Officials say it’s one more layer of protection as the county starts to reopen.

At a media update Wednesday afternoon, Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra compared wearing masks to using speed bumps, helmets, and seatbelts. 

Courtesy of Tali Whelan

Tali Whelan is a registered nurse. 

“I have worked the long 12-hour shifts in the past, and so I know how difficult it can be to be on your feet for so long and constantly on the go,” said Whelan. 

She normally works in a dermatology office, but right now, because it’s not busy, she’s on furlough. So she started a one-woman, local chapter of Front Line Appreciation Group, or FLAG.

Courtesy of Diana Vidales

Over the next month, many students will be graduating from college, but without the traditional pomp and circumstance or cap and gown. So we asked two students and their mothers about missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and what songs come to mind when they reflect on their journey.  

We spoke to Greyson Canterbury and his mom Kim Canterbury who live in Visalia. Greyson is a Fresno State Dean’s Medalist and is planning to go to Sri Lanka as a Peace Corps Volunteer, though the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed those plans.  

Rey León's Facebook Page

The population of Huron, California, a rural town in southwest Fresno County, more than doubles during harvest season with an influx of migrant farm workers. FM89's Kathleen Schock spoke with the city’s mayor, Rey León, about how the coronavirus is affecting this population and what it's like to lead a community through a pandemic.

On this week’s Valley Edition: How are students in the San Joaquin Valley keeping up with their studies from home? We talk to education reporters about the challenge of distance learning and how access to technology deepens educational inequity.

Also, many college graduations are taking place this weekend and over the next month. What’s it like for students without the traditional pomp and circumstance?

Plus, we hear from a small town mayor about leading a mostly farm worker community through the pandemic.

UCSF Fresno

Near the beginning of the pandemic, we talked to an ER doctor who said the emergency room at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno felt like “the calm before the storm.” So, more than two months in, what’s it like now? FM89’s Alice Daniel spoke with Dr. Jim Comes, chair of the emergency department at Community Regional Medical Center and chief of emergency medicine at UCSF Fresno.

 

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.

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