fresno county

Fresno County Public Library Facebook

Many public and private establishments across the San Joaquin Valley are closing temporarily in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This comes after increasing recommendations from federal, state and local officials to maintain social distancing.

Fresno, Tulare and Kern Counties have closed all of their library branches. Fresno’s libraries will be closed until April 14; Kern County libraries will be closed until April 13; and Tulare County libraries will be closed until the end of March. However, patrons can continue to use online library resources. 

Fresno County

Fresno County confirmed a second case of COVID-19 Saturday evening. Both cases identified so far have been travel-related. In a press conference Sunday, a county health official said the department is also monitoring up to 70 individuals, to track symptoms. While the risk of community transmission is still low, the best defense is to practice good hygiene: wash hands, avoid large crowds, and stay home if you’re sick. 

Fresno Unified School District

Three Valley districts have made the decision to close their schools starting Monday until April 13: Fresno, Clovis and Central Unified. They’re the latest across the state to announce a blanket closure of schools due to coronavirus concerns.  

In a press conference Friday, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said preserving the health and well-being of students is the district’s priority.   

Kings County Public Health Department

Only two COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the San Joaquin Valley: one each in Madera and Fresno counties. Both are related to travel on Princess Cruises. To prevent further spread, public health departments are monitoring at-risk folks daily.  

Not every county publishes the number of monitored individuals, but from those that do in the San Joaquin Valley,  about 40 individuals have been or are being monitored. About ten of those individuals were cleared after not presenting symptoms following two weeks of isolation.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

 

Polls show candidates Andrew Janz and Jerry Dyer are neck and neck. And that race, along with other local races, could be decided next Tuesday. If one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, there’s no runoff in November. But do people know that? 

We spoke with several Valley residents at a local Fresno farmers market - and many were unaware of Tuesday’s primary and its significance.  However, one Clovis man who is not eligible to vote said he finds the whole system baffling. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

 

Supporters of Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren packed into a downtown Fresno business Monday to hear from someone who used to be her competitor.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro addressed around 50 people at the Fulton Street Coffee shop. The 45-year-old was also a presidential candidate, but ended his bid in January. He said running alongside Elizabeth Warren proved to him that she deserves the democratic nomination.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

The 2020 Census count in California starts in April and outreach has already begun around the San Joaquin Valley to ensure a complete count. However, some census advocates say the survey isn’t specific enough.

One example is that the Census does not identify those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speak American Sign Language. 

“We wish it did,” said Susan Coulter. She’s the Educational Services Director at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center in Fresno. Coulter added that there’s also a language barrier. 

Fresno EOC

California is one of the nation’s top states for human trafficking, a complex crime that is difficult to combat. But in the Central Valley, nonprofits are working with law enforcement to tackle the issue from multiple perspectives. Valley Public Radio's Kathleen Schock spoke with Sarah Johnson from the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and Jessica Pittman from the Central Valley Justice Coalition about the work taking place to end this widespread problem.

California has moved its primary election earlier in the year. Instead of June, voters will now cast their ballots in March. For Fresno and Mariposa Counties, there are other changes intended to update voting technology and increase voter turnout. Fresno and Mariposa have adopted the new Voter's Choice Act Model, which means voting centers have replaced polling places, and every voter is mailed a ballot. Madera County adopted the model in 2018. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Chronic absence plagues most school districts in the San Joaquin Valley. We know that students who can’t make it to school miss out on learning, and research shows that missing even three days a month over time can put students a year or more behind their peers. Thursday, the Fresno County Office of Education hosted a conference looking at ways to reduce chronic absenteeism. 

This week on Valley Edition: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We talk to people on the front lines tackling this complex problem. 

Plus, elections are changing in Fresno County as it adopts the Voters Choice Model. Madera County is also using that model, so ahead of this year’s primary, we ask the county clerks what local voters need to know.

And later, we hear from one of the nation’s leading researchers on chronic absence in schools.  

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

City Of Clovis Facebook Page

The City of Clovis is being sued for its lack of affordable housing. A lawsuit filed in Fresno County Superior Court Wednesday alleged that the city isn’t in compliance with state housing law, and is discriminating against low-income people by not planning for high density housing. 

Alice Daniel / Valley Public Radio

Renters in Fresno County need to make about twice the minimum wage to be able to afford the median monthly rent. Conditions like high rents contribute to the ongoing issue of homelessness in the San Joaquin Valley.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

The Selma City Council is torn between choosing a district map the community supports or picking one that keeps members from running against each other. 

 

At Monday night’s regular meeting, the council cast votes on a map created by the company it hired, the National Demographics Corporation (or NDC), and a map drawn by a community member. The vote was split because Council Member Jim Avalos abstained.

 

“I need more time to talk to the public,” Avalos said. “I need more time to analyze these maps.”

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

The Selma City Council wants to change the way people vote for council members by creating districts versus at-large voting. But mapping those districts is a complicated process and community and council members have different ideas on how to make it fair.

The first set of district maps that were shown to the five-member council drew controversy at this week's meeting. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

High-profile workers rights activist Dolores Huerta was one of several people cited with misdemeanor charges while protesting at a Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting today. The 89-year-old who helped establish the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez was calling for higher wages for caregivers. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Across Fresno and Madera Counties, about 2,600 kids are currently in foster care. Although foster parents, attorneys, social workers and judges work together to move cases through the court system, some needs fall through the cracks. An organization called CASA connects foster youth with volunteers to try to make sure that doesn't happen. The volunteers are also known as CASAs, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. But the organization argues there aren’t nearly enough volunteers to fill the need.

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

When Lewanne Osborn moved to the foothill community of Springville 53 years ago, the population was around 900, she said. Flip to the year 2000, and the population went up to 1,092, according to census bureau data. But 10 years later the population declined to 934. 

“In my own mind I just don’t feel like it’s an accurate number,” Obourne said. “I have seen incredible growth, houses going up everywhere, new communities that used to be just nothing but hillside and grassland.”

 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Mayor David Cardenas of Fowler wants his small city to be at the forefront of education. That’s why he spends his lunch break passing out fliers, urging families who can’t afford preschool to consider an alternative. His target audience is families with children who won’t be attending kindergarten until Fall of 2020. 

“We’re here because I’m trying to bring this program, but I want to make sure it’s going to be a program for young little kids,” Cardenas says as he drives from the local senior center to the Presbyterian church to drop off a stack of fliers.

Fresno County Sheriff's Department

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department has identified 57-year-old Michael James Congdon as the suspect in Tuesday's shooting of a Sheriff's deputy. 

Congdon is facing two attempted murder charges, one against 49-year-old Deputy John Erickson and the other against Erickson's civilian ride-along. He has been booked into the Fresno County Jail; his total bail is set at slightly over $1.9 million. Congdon, who is from Fresno, is also facing felony charges of shooting at an occupied vehicle, using a firearm to commit a felony, committing a felony while armed and animal cruelty. 

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