Fresno County health officials announced the first coronavirus-related death in the county on Friday.
The individual who passed away was an elderly woman who had multiple comorbid conditions, Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health Officer, said. Sources subsequently told The Sun that the woman was a resident of the western Fresno County city of Firebaugh.
“While it wasn’t completely unexpected, it’s obviously still a shock for our community because it is our first death here in the county,” Vohra said. “I want to extend our deepest sympathies for the family and commend all of the medical providers who worked very hard on that case. And really just wanted to say that the best way that we can honor this person’s legacy is to really redouble our efforts to fight this infection with what we know works.”
The total number of positive COVID-19 cases in Fresno County increased to 100, an increase of six from Thursday.
There are 28 travel-related cases, 18 person-to-person cases, 24 community spread cases and the remaining 30 cases are still under investigation.
Vohra said the county is currently unaware how the individual who died contracted the disease.
“This is one of the most vulnerable populations that we have here in the valley, our elderly, our otherwise vulnerable and frail populations,” Vohra said. “So we are doing a lot to try to protect them. We’re working with all of the elder care homes, all of the nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.
“We want to make sure that really all of the hospitals understand the need to really protect those that have underlying health conditions, because we know that those are the folks that are most at risk. So we’re absolutely trying to do what we can to educate as well as support our medical community as they treat these patients.”
On average, there are 10 individuals per day who have tested positive for coronavirus that are hospitalized. The rest are recovering from home.
Fresno County announced Friday that the state approved an alternate care site at the Convention Center, which will provide 250 beds to help alleviate the strain on local hospitals.
Vohra expects the case numbers to keep increasing, and he thinks the county will eventually face a surge in positive cases
“The way that these curves work epidemiologically, there’s definitely going to be increased numbers of patients,” Vohra said. “We’re trying to flatten that curve as much as possible, so we’re hoping that it’s on the flat side. But right now the numbers are still, I would say, alarming because they keep going up and up, and we haven’t really seen that they’re abating either statewide or locally here in the Central Valley.”
If the numbers do eventually surge, the county will face a shortage of doctors.
“This, as you know, is a chronic issue,” Vohra said. “I don’t think it’s just a county issue. I would say it’s a Central Valley and regional issue, if not a statewide issue. We don’t have enough physicians to just take care of and meet our usual medical needs, and we know that we’re going to be stressed for finding the right personnel to staff really a surge-level response here locally.”
Vohra said some possibilities to fill the shortage include tapping into a pool of retired physicians, volunteers and community doctors who have extra time currently due to adjustments in their workflow.
“We’re really looking forward to putting together this pool of physicians, as well as nurses and technicians, and really it will take not only doctors, but a whole slew of different types of specialties to help us mount this surge response,” Vohra said. “And we’re actively planning on what that looks like based on the number of beds that we’ll need to serve, and that’s something that we’re actively looking at.”