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Firefighters in central California are searching for people stranded by a fast-moving fire that has already burned an estimated 45,000 acres. The Creek Fire started Friday evening and, fueled by timber and dry vegetation, quickly jumped the San Joaquin River and blocked evacuation routes.

Healthy Fresno County Facebook page

 

Over the last month, the spread of COVID-19 in the San Joaquin Valley has slowed. But not all measures of the disease have improved, and health officials say it’s no time for the community to let down its guard.

Fresno County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra is concerned about the virus spreading during Labor Day weekend. In a media call on Tuesday, he said he knows it’s hard to hear, but non-essential gatherings should be cancelled.

 

Medical Board of California Facebook page

A San Joaquin Valley legislator is seeking answers from the Medical Board of California as to why the oversight agency allowed a Bakersfield doctor to remain in practice even though it determined he had been negligent with patients.

The Latinx community continues to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19. That’s why the Kern County Public Health Department recently created a first-of-its-kind task force to address this issue.  

Monica Lam / KQED

More than 1,100 people at the Fresno County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The running tally of infections at the county-run complex actually surpasses those at all but two state prisons in California. But unlike the state’s careful tracking and reporting of cases at prisons and nursing homes, data on COVID-19 infections in county jails have not been consistently collected or made readily available to the public.

As fires continue to ravage Northern California, farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley now have to protect themselves from poor air quality on top of COVID-19. One farm worker says it’s made working in the fields even harder.

 

Oralia Bautista is 34 years old. Six days a week she commutes with her husband from Fresno to pick tomatoes in Firebaugh. While working, she always wears a mask.

 

“It helps filter out the bad air we’re breathing, but it's also hard because well, it’s hard to breathe with the mask on to begin with,” she said.

 

Fresno County officials announced the results from January’s homeless point-in-time count Wednesday, including a significant rise in unhoused individuals. 

This year’s annual point-in-time count found 3,251 people experiencing homelessness throughout Fresno County. That’s about a 50 percent increase from 2019, when the number of people counted was 2,131. However, more people than usual were counted in shelters.

Courtesy of Steve Thao

A documentary produced in Burma in the late 1990s shows two young Hmong women in traditional dress dancing. They’re encircled by other villagers and everyone is singing a goodbye song to filmmaker Su Thao.

“He went to Burma to find, kind of like the lost Hmong people there. He did a documentary. The whole town came out to welcome him. He had a conversation with the village elders,” says Steve Thao, Su Thao's oldest son. Su died of COVID-19 last month and his funeral is this weekend in Fresno.

CSU Bakersfield, Renteria for Congress, Francine Farber and Dezie Woods-Jones Facebook

One hundred years ago this week the 19th Amendment was ratified, extending the right to vote to some, but not all, women in America.

Screenshot via Zoom

It’s hard enough for seasoned teachers to transition from in-person classes to online learning. But what about teachers who are just starting out? 

Oscar Andrade falls under that category. The second year educator left his classroom at Centennial Elementary School in March, and was allowed to return in early August to get ready for the year.

 

Vivian Ho and Monica Velez

This week, The Guardian published the first in a series of reports on why COVID-19 cases have surged in the Central Valley. Valley Public Radio Host Kathleen Schock spoke with reporter Vivian Ho about her investigation into how the virus spread among agricultural workers. Also joining the conversation is UC Merced Associate Professor of Sociology Edward Flores, who recently co-published a study on the connection between low-wage employment and the coronavirus.

Marion County Sheriff's Office in Florida, via FOIA

A year ago, Tulare County native Jose Manuel Martinez was facing 10 life terms in prison before a trial in Florida that could have resulted in the death penalty. But after testimony from his family, painting Martinez as nothing but a loving father, uncle, and brother, he was spared, and given another life sentence. 

California Health Sciences University

 

The San Joaquin Valley’s first four-year medical school has finally opened in Fresno County. And, despite virtual learning at many universities during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, classes are being held in person.

At least 10 people have tested positive for COVID-19 at the ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield as of Monday, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Advocates say the people detained are not getting proper medical attention.

Christian Orellana, 22, contracted the virus in late July. On Saturday, he fainted at Mesa Verde. His lawyer, Ambar Tovar with the Defense Project in Bakersfield, said officials sent him to his bed even though she asked that a doctor examine him. 

Farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley are facing higher risks of contracting COVID-19 compared to non-agricultural industries, according to a new farmworkers study. That’s on top of dealing with extreme heat and pesticide exposure. 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 

Following a string of patient injuries and deaths, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bakersfield has been placed on probation.

Dr. Arthur Park has been treating women and delivering babies in Bakersfield since 1988. In that time, he’s also been the defendant in at least 10 lawsuits alleging negligence, medical malpractice, or wrongful death, and he’s been associated with the deaths of at least two mothers and five newborns.

 

Alice Daniel / KVPR

 

 

Outside the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Fresno, volunteers unload boxes of ribbed sinqua from a farmer’s pickup truck.  

“All right they’re all good to go,” a young man says. “All of it?” another volunteer asks as he and others line up to carry the boxes of vegetables inside.

 

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.

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.  

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.

 

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