Fresno

Fresno Co.’s coronavirus spread drives focus on pre-screening, homeless

The Fresno County Department of Public Health announced Friday that there are four new cases of COVID-19 in the county, pushing the total to 31.

The department said 16 cases are travel related, four are from person-to-person contact, four are from community spread and the remaining seven cases are still under investigation.

In person-to-person contact, health officials have identified the source of the spread, while in community spread cases, the source is not known and cannot be traced to a single individual.

Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health Officer for the FCDPH, spoke with the media and announced that he signed two health officer orders in what he called an effort to make the community safer.

The first order will put requirements in place for business, medical providers and individual residents. Businesses and employers will be required to screen their employees for febrile respiratory illnesses and will need to exclude all employees from work that show symptoms for seven days.

Employees who are excluded from work are required to isolate at home and notify all close contacts to quarantine themselves for 14 days from the last known contact with the patient.

All medical providers will be required to report all patients seen with a febrile respiratory illness to the department of public health.

The order also requires all individuals to isolate themselves for seven days – unless they require further medical attention – if they show symptoms and to notify all close contacts to quarantine for 14 days.

The second order simply reiterates that anyone who violates state isolation and quarantine orders will be charged with a criminal misdemeanor.

With the county starting to experience some community spread of coronavirus, Vohra addressed the population of people experiencing homelessness, given that they are one of the most vulnerable groups.

“At this time I don’t know that we have any patients who fit that description among our COVID-positive cohort,” Vohra said. “Obviously that is a very vulnerable population that we are focusing on quite a lot. And we want to make absolutely sure that they have the protection and the support that they need, and all of the agencies that are serving that population have the support and the information they need to protect themselves and also to do a good job protecting that community.”

Vohra said the department has had multiple meetings with groups and organizations that support people experiencing homelessness and is partnering with the county government to ensure the homeless community has shelters and a place to be housed in case they are placed under quarantine.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that they don’t pass on a potentially COVID virus to a large number of other people through a congregate setting,” Vohra said. “We’re absolutely looking at that. We know that that’s going to be a vulnerable population and present quite a challenge, and we are dedicated to making sure that our persons experiencing homelessness get all the help that they need when they’re fighting this COVID virus.”

Although the FCDPH has not reported any deaths due to coronavirus in the county, the department is preparing for all possibilities, including a high-death count that could overcrowd the county morgue.

Vohra said the county is not at the phase where it is over-capacity for any of the medical care needs. However, officials are currently planning with hospitals across the region to set protocols for how to share supplies, personnel, staffin, equipment and best medical practices as more information becomes available.

“It does also include planning for that large number of fatalities which the experience of other countries has taught may actually occur whenever this virus rips through a community,” Vohra said. “Obviously we’re praying for that to not happen here, but we do need to prepare that it could come to pass. So we’re already planning for really every aspect of this epidemic, whether it ends up being on the low side in terms of the lives lost, or something that’s larger.”

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 [email protected]