COVID-19 · Fresno

Valley public health officials surprised at Newsom’s lifting of shelter-in-place order

With California Gov. Gavin Newsom lifting the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, Fresno County is once again firmly in the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint. 

Tuesday’s weekly update from the state showed that Fresno County is likely a long ways off from entering the red tier, which would bring back indoor dining among other changes. Fresno County currently has an adjusted new daily case rate per 100,000 people of 58, and its positivity rate over the last week is 15.3%. 

To enter the red tier, Fresno County will need to post a case rate less than 7 and a positivity rate under 8 percent. 

Overall, while the numbers are high, Fresno County is in a similar situation as the rest of the state: 54 of the 58 counties are currently in the purple tier – which accounts for 99.9% of the population – and the state is averaging 71.6 new daily cases per 100,000 people and a 12.4 percent positivity rate. 

Fresno County hospitals are still severely impacted by the pandemic. There are 553 hospitalized patients who have contracted COVID-19, as well as an additional 16 patients who are suspected of having the virus. 

Of that total of 569 patients, 88 are currently being cared for in the ICU. The county also has eight ICU beds available, although county officials have maintained that a number that low is effectively treated like the county does not have any ICU capacity remaining due to the continual effort to move patients through to open up more space. 

Given those numbers, Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra was surprised that Newsom pulled the plug on the shelter-in-place order. 

“It is disorienting, and I’ll be honest with you – I didn’t expect this announcement to come as soon as it did,” said Vohra in a Tuesday public health briefing. “It was abrupt. Obviously we’re glad that people are going to be allowed to do some things. We’re just hoping that they do them in as safe a manner as possible. 

“What we’re seeing and what we’re feeling as frontline health care providers is still that sense of exhaustion. People are still tired. Our health care heroes are tired, and it would be such a shame if everyone rushed out and had unsafe choices that they made and that led to our health care system being severely impacted again.” 

Vaccine update

Fresno County received 8,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, pushing the total count up to 99,000 doses. 

As the county continues to move through its vaccine schedule, vaccinating health care workers and people aged 75 and older, the initiative to vaccinate farm workers kicked off Monday. 

Fresno County started its initial run of 3,000 doses for farm workers in an effort to test different models to determine the best way to mass vaccinate the agriculture industry when the time comes, county division manager Joe Prado said. 

After the announcement last week, the mass vaccination site at the Fresno Fairgrounds is closed to the public this week due to a shortage of vaccine supply. 

Instead, the county is using the fairgrounds site this week to vaccinate about 2,000 people who are in long-term care facilities. 

Prado said the fairgrounds site will reopen next week for individuals who are scheduled to receive their second dose of the vaccine. 

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.