COVID-19 · Fresno

Fresno Co. morgue overrun, shipment issues arise over supply of Moderna vaccine

Fresno County received its allotted shipment of the Moderna manufactured COVID-19 vaccine this week, but health officials are requesting new doses from the state due to issues with the delivered vaccine. 

Joe Prado, a community health manager with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said Tuesday the county received a shipment of 14,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine. However, the data logger showed the shipment did not meet the required threshold for the cold temperature requirement. 

“There is at least some of the shipment that we are going to have to return and get new doses received on that,” Prado said. 

Prado said the state is reviewing the shipment through its access to the Moderna system to find out how long the doses were out of the required temperature range. 

“We’re waiting for further direction on the state,” Prado said. “We hope to have those doses replaced, given direction on what we do with the doses by the end of this week – hopefully within the next 48 hours,” Prado said. 

Although the Moderna shipment was problematic, the county did receive a second shipment of the Pfizer vaccine, bringing that total up to 11,700 doses. Prado said 56% of that total has been distributed to the hospital systems, as health care workers across California are first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Hospitalizations continue to climb

The state reported Tuesday that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Fresno County climbed to 587, an all-time high. There are also 28 hospitalized patients who doctors suspect have contracted the coronavirus. 

COVID-19 ICU patients also reached an all-time high at 123, with an additional three patients who are suspected of having COVID-19. 

For comparison, the summer surge experienced in the county – which strained the health care system – produced a peak of 313 hospitalizations, 67 of which were being cared for in the ICU. 

Last week the county began the process of opening up a 50-bed alternate care site on the campus of Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno. Central California Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch said that site is fully up and running and will be caring for 25 patients by Wednesday morning. 

As reported last week, the plan remains to begin the process of opening up the alternate care site at the convention center in downtown Fresno – which can house up to 250 patients – once the CRMC site reaches 40-45 patients. 

Lynch reported that the Department of Defense team that was set to arrive on Dec. 28 will now arrive on Dec. 31. That is an Air Force unit that specializes in ICU care. 

Additional health care staffing from the state has arrived at CRMC, and the county has made a request to the state to provide more staffing for St. Agnes Medical Center in north Fresno. 

The morgue is overrun

With Fresno County averaging 3.6 COVID-19 deaths per day over the last two weeks, Lynch said there are issues with morgue space at all of the facilities throughout the county. 

County hospitals have added refrigeration morgue units, and the Coroner’s Office has installed a refrigeration trailer that can hold up to 50 deceased individuals, Lynch said. 

“We anticipate that the space is going to be used, and we are actually looking at bringing in two additional refrigerator trucks to add to the other one at the coroner’s office,” Lynch said. 

“This is a very dire subject matter to talk about, but this is the reality of what we’re looking at.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.