Newsom administration muzzled Fresno Co. disclosure of Reedley COVID lab, county officials claim

After blistering criticism, Fresno County Supervisors issued new explanations for the lack of information on the Reedley lab.

The State of California sought to limit Fresno County’s attempts to publicize the secret Reedley biologics lab that was found to contain various materials and infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 and malaria, as well as nearly 1,000 bioengineered mice. 

Along with that revelation, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors publicly discussed the Reedley lab for the first time as a group and went after Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld for a press conference that he held last week.


The big picture: Comments from Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig regarding state involvement in the county’s messaging about the Reedley lab conflicted with subsequent statements from county staff. 

  • During Tuesday’s meeting, Magsig said the county had drafted a press release a few months ago detailing the situation, but after consultation with the California Department of Public Health, the county was told to not put it out. 
  • However, after the meeting Fresno County Public Information Officer Sonja Dosti offered a conflicting view, detailing to The Sun how the county had drafted up a holding statement – a draft press release to be tendered to media outlets in the event lab abatement activities in Reedley sparked coverage,
  • The initial holding statement was first drafted in March, and in April the county sought to add more details in case the public came calling since there was county activity at the lab. The county consulted with the state, with state input being categorized as a “recommendation” that the county omit some details from the statement to protect the integrity of the investigation. 
  • Despite a push for omission of details, Dosti claimed that Newsom administration officials did not force Fresno County to hold any details back. Other county officials, speaking anonymously to The Sun, categorize state agency’s involvement as being more coercive.
  • The county would eventually issue the holding statement for national and international media inquiries over the course of the past two weeks amid public revelation of the lab, while Fresno County Public Health Assistant DirectorJoe Prado spoke directly with local media.

Driving the news: Supervisor Brian Pacheco said Tuesday that he and some other supervisors were not made aware of the Reedley lab until it was reported by the media in late July. Tuesday also marked the first time that the supervisors as a whole discussed the Reedley lab. 

  • Bredefeld – who is running against Supervisor Steve Brandau for the District 2 seat – held a press conference last Monday in part to call for greater transparency into the Reedley lab, asking why the county did not bring it to the attention of the public earlier. 
  • Along with the California Department of Public Health not allowing the county to make it public, the FBI told the county to not go to the public in the early stages of the investigation. 

What they’re saying: Pacheco, who first learned about the lab on July 27, called out Bredefeld by name and said there have been many red herrings and accusations against the county. 

  • “He has a history of self promotion over the facts, and that’s what this was all about,” Pacheco said. 
  • Supervisor Buddy Mendes compared Bredefeld to McCarthyism. 
  • “This whole deal with the councilman reminded me of Joe McCarthy in the 50s who just launched accusations, had hearings in the Senate,” Mendes said. “They were some of the first TV hearings in the Senate, and nine times out of 10 it was all false. And he ruined a lot of people’s lives, but this is the same tactics. These are dangerous tactics. These are tactics that people need to get together and say, ‘Hey, you’re not right. You’re wrong.’”
  • Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau thanked Fresno County Assistant Public Health Director Joe Prado and Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba for presentations to the Board on the status of the lab before turning his comments toward his chief rival in 2024, Bredefeld.
  • “I don’t believe [your information] will deter for one minute those who are politically motivated and the sycophants that follow them to try to tear down and destroy elements of our community in their own political efforts,” Brandau said.

The other side: Bredefeld responded to Brandau’s comments in a statement to The Sun.

  • “Since at least March, the Board of Supervisors hid information from the public that a “Wuhan-type” Chinese biological lab in Reedley was involved in injecting mice to “catch and carry Covid-19″ along with dangerous infectious agents such as measles, hepatitis, rubella, chlamydia, pnuemonia and that medical waste was disposed of improperly and likely now in the landfill,” Bredefeld said via statement. “This is the same Board that was silent during all the Covid destructive lockdowns and mandates. As of last week, they continued to defend hiding this information from the public until I called them out and said the public had and has a right to know this information.”
  • “Last week they blamed the FBI for not telling the public. This week they blame Newsom’s administration. Then they say don’t look at us, look at the City of Fresno. Steve Brandau today called those who support me wanting transparency from the County “sychophants” which is an attack on his very own constituents who don’t want to be lied to and want information about a dangerous Chinese lab in their own community. The Board of Supervisors insult the intelligence of their own constituents and try to blame everyone else for their failures but themselves. They’re disgraceful and we will continue to hold them accountable for their incompetence and lack of transparency.”
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