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Dora Garza, 82, walks out of the Madera County Health Department on a windy day in February. She’s just received her first dose of the vaccine and she says the shot was quick and painless.

“It didn’t hurt and I would like everybody to get it that you know, needs to have it,” she says.

Garza says she got the vaccine because she has a younger sister who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two months. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are facing limited access to resources during the pandemic, according to the second phase of the COVID-19 Farmworker Study funded by the California Institute of Rural Studies. 

Community organizers, like Erica Fernandez Zamora, conducted 63 in-depth interviews with farmworkers across the state. Most are struggling financially. 

 

 

It’s just before the 5 p.m. dinner hour and tickets are starting to print out in The Vineyard’s kitchen. 

Customer Robert Fischer waits to pick up his dinner order at the dining room entrance. 

“Oh we’ve got the special tonight. We’ve got the calzone, so I can’t wait to get home to dig into that,” he says.

 

He says he orders takeout twice a week to support Madera restaurants. He’s been coming to the Vineyard for 15 years and wants to make sure it stays. 

 

Fresno Alliance

So many people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Fresno County Jail that the total number of cases now exceeds the entire incarcerated population.

According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, nearly 4,000 inmates and staff members have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic started, a total that the New York Times ranks as the largest of any single correctional facility in the country.

 

In the past few weeks, Fresno police have been called to break up anti-mask protests at businesses like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts. At a news conference Monday, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer spoke about a weekend protest at Sprouts, which resulted in one person being cited.

He says officers can only intervene by issuing a citation for trespassing. After that, violators who refuse to cooperate will be arrested. 

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-January, Woodland Elementary School’s cafeteria is transformed into a vaccine center. The room is sectioned off into check-in points with nursing staff and a waiting area for newly-vaccinated staff members. 

 

 

Bill Peterson, 78, is greeted by a nurse as he walks in. He holds onto his health information packet as he walks up to the cafeteria stage, behind the curtain. Nurses are stationed there with vaccines. Peterson sits down, joking with them before he rolls up his sleeve. 

 

Fresno Police are on heightened alert on Inauguration Day, watching for any potential threats with protests. Speaking in front of City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the department hasn’t received anything credible to investigate, but teams remain in contact with the FBI to monitor intelligence. Balderrama said street closures are in effect Wednesday with officers concentrated in the downtown area. 

 

On a cloudy morning in Northeast Bakersfield, Dr. Mathew Beare walks along a narrow trail of damp fallen leaves to a small homeless encampment.  For over a year, Beare and his street medicine team have made the drive every Thursday from Clinica Sierra Vista in downtown Bakersfield to this barren site just off of Chester Avenue. 

 

Mark Arax

The man who carried a Confederate flag inside the U.S. Capitol during last week’s insurrection was arrested yesterday for an act that served as a reminder that the roots of our country’s divisions run deep. The now infamous images of him walking through the Capitol with the flag resting causally on his shoulder raise questions about the history of the Confederacy, not just in the South, but also here in the Central Valley.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

More than six percent of Californians have now contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but in one San Joaquin Valley county, the case rate is almost twice as high.

 

A Sierra Unified School District board trustee who was at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday refused calls for him to step down during a Monday night board meeting.

 

James Hoak listened to two hours of public comments that were split in support of and against him keeping his seat on the board. More than 400 people attended the virtual meeting. He responded directly when asked if he would resign.

 

“I can answer that real quick for you. I will be here until 2024, and I’ll see you at the polls,” he said.

Department of State Hospitals

In late December, Clementine Sanders called her son at Coalinga State Hospital to make sure he had received her Christmas card. That’s when his bunkmates informed her that her son, 58-year-old Shannon Starr, had died three weeks earlier. “I was just totally shocked,” she says. “Nobody called me.”

Since then, she says, none of her messages to staff or reception have been returned. “I still wasn’t notified and I still haven’t heard from the [hospital],” she says.

 

 

After a ceremonial swearing-in at City Hall, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer laid out his first priorities in office. He said his first order of business is an initiative to house those experiencing homelessness. 

Dyer emphasized helping people who have made encampments along the city’s  freeways.

“I’ve been working over the last several months with the governor’s office, as well as Caltrans and CHP,” he said. “And we’re going to be relocating those individuals from the freeway into housing beginning this month.”

Valley Congressman Jim Costa called the insurrection at the United States Capitol Wednesday an act of treason. He said he defends every American’s right to peacefully protest. 

 

The sale of Fresno’s historic Tower Theatre is raising concerns among businesses and residents. The buyer, Adventure Church, currently holds Sunday services at the theatre. But according to Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria, that’s a violation of current zoning laws. 

“We researched our land use and code on what is authorized and we have gotten a determination that actually the current use of religious assembly is not allowed,” says Soria. 

 

 

The last living climber on the first team to scale Yosemite’s El Capitan has died from complications of COVID-19. George Whitmore, 89, is best known for his historic climb in 1958 with his partners, Wayne Merry and Warren Harding. His pioneering techniques helped the group get safely to the top. 

“They enjoyed having done it. It was a great adventure to them but none of them ever really had a big head about it, so to speak,” says his widow, Nancy Whitmore, 76. 

 

Ambulance services in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties are under a new policy to only transport patients in life-threatening situations. It’s a response to the surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming hospital staff.

Dan Lynch, emergency services manager at the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said the new policy will help decrease the number of unnecessary emergency visits to hospitals. Lynch said paramedics and EMT’s will look for specific vital signs first.

Federal lawmakers are still trying to pass a $900 billion Coronavirus relief bill before the end of year. Before the pandemic, about 30 million Americans were food insecure, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) said in a press conference Wednesday in Fresno. Since the pandemic, he said that number has increased to another 8 million.

Valley food banks have collectively reported that as much as 25% to 40% of people they have been serving in the last six to eight months have never needed food assistance before. The stimulus package hopes to address that increase.

 

The California Department of Justice announced a settlement Tuesday with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, following a four-year-long investigation into allegations of excessive force and other misconduct.

Among the issues filed: unreasonable stops, searches and seizures, access to services for people with language barriers and how the department addressed public complaints. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

 

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in downtown Fresno, and a line of cars has wrapped around the block from the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission to Chukchansi Stadium. A petite karaoke singer belts out George Harrison on the sidewalk, while the drivers, masked and corralled into reserved parking spots, wait for Testing Tuesday to begin.

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