COVID-19 · Visalia

Tulare Co. health officials plead with community to get vaccinated as hospitals prepare for surge

With the COVID-19 delta variant continuing to spread, Tulare County officials urged people to get vaccinated as the area’s hospitals have seen a recent spike in patients. 

As of the latest update from the state, Tulare County currently has 83 patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19. 

That’s a number that has not been reached since February. 

“Three weeks ago we were at 10 patients in the hospital with COVID, so we have seen the biggest increase so far in COVID patients that are hospitalized in this current surge,” said Keri Noeske, the Chief Nursing Officer of Kaweah Health, during a Wednesday press conference. 

The increase in hospitalizations has led to 11 patients who are currently in the ICU with the virus. The last time Tulare County had more than three COVID-19 patients in the ICU was April. 

Noeske said 10 of the current ICU patients have not received the vaccine. 

In order to prepare for the expected continuation of the surge, Noeske said Kaweah Delta Hospital will renew the efforts that it had in place last December and January, including an ICU step down unit, medical surgical levels of care in endoscopy and procedural areas as well as backups in the emergency department. 

“What that does do as we take up critical care beds with COVID-related admissions, it does make it harder for caring for other people who also need ICU level of care,” Noeske said. 

Amy Shuklian, the Chair of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, took to the podium to share the county’s vaccination statistics and plead with the unvaccinated residents to take action. 

Tulare County has 51.2 percent of its eligible population (ages 12 and older) who have received at least one shot, and 43.5 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. 

“Although these numbers are promising, unfortunately Tulare County is behind and lagging in vaccination rates occurring in other parts of California, and because of this our health care providers and hospitals continue to suffer,” Shuklian said. 

Shuklian also noted that nearly 90 percent of positive COVID-19 cases last week in Tulare County were of the Delta variant. 

The rise of the Delta variant has also seen an increase in the number of children who have been affected by COVID-19. 

Dr. Gurvinder Kaur, the Medical Officer for Adventist Health in the Central Valley, said child hospitalizations have risen. 

To combat that, Kaur pleaded with parents to get their children ages 12 and above vaccinated as schools start to reopen. 

“Parents, please get your children vaccinated, because that’s another area that we are worried that infection rate might rapidly rise,” Kaur said. “As you know, we are seeing hospitalizations among children now. With the original COVID variant, we did not see as many children hospitalized, but now we’re starting to see them in the hospitals.”

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.