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‘July Is Going to Be Very Tragic,’ Says Fresno County Health Officer



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New numbers from the state Tuesday show Fresno County has had a 97.7% increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the past 14 days.

During the same time frame, the county has seen a 33.3% increase in ICU cases. Public health officials report that 200 of 270 ICU beds are occupied (40 of those ICU patients are COVID-19 cases), and some hospitals are moving to emergency protocols.

“I think July is going to be very tragic in terms of the number of hospitalizations and the number of fatalities that we see.” — Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra

In addition, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office reports 507 inmates at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. There are still 186 tests pending.

And, sheriff Margaret Mims tells GV Wire℠ through a spokesperson that she will not enforce the state- and county-ordered closure of brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs.

However, the county department of health says it will enforce the bar closure.

Fresno County COVID-19 Cases

“Get a mask, and start using a mask,” said county interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra during a media briefing via Zoom on Tuesday. “Our cases are not currently under control.”

In the past two weeks, Fresno County has seen 1,915 new coronavirus cases.

“This last week of having increased case counts, gives me a lot of indigestion going into the rest of summer,” said Vohra. “I think July is going to be very tragic in terms of the number of hospitalizations and the number of fatalities that we see.”

Jail Quarantine and Testing

A jail quarantine began June 19, leaving several more days to go until the recommended 14-day quarantine period is over.

In addition to the 507 positive inmates, the sheriff’s office reports that 25 correctional officers and one deputy have contracted the coronavirus.

The overwhelming majority of the positive inmates are housed in the north jail annex, the sheriff’s office says.

“We want to ramp up testing so we are going to go ahead and try to test every single individual (in the jail), a staff member, an inmate, a medical provider,” Vohra said. “We want to set up a paradigm of just testing people regularly.”

Vohra says there is a silver lining.

“Most of the inmates and most of the staff that have been asked to quarantine are asymptomatic or very mildly symptomatic,” said Vohra. “I think it just basically highlights what we’ve already known about this viral infection, which is that asymptomatic spread in crowded settings, especially indoors, is definitely a thing, and it’s definitely something that allows this virus to get around.”

Sheriff Not Enforcing Bars Closure Order, but Others Will

According to a Fresno County Department of Public Health order Monday afternoon, “Brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs, shall close until those establishments are allowed to resume operation per state guidance and local permission, unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.”

portrait of Nathan Magsig

“The county of Fresno has been relying on voluntary compliance as we move through this pandemic.” — Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig

One member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors says bars could have their ABC license revoked if they don’t comply, inferring it’s up to the establishment to determine whether they’ll abide by the order or not.

“The county of Fresno has been relying on voluntary compliance as we move through this pandemic,” supervisor Nathan Magsig tells GV Wire℠ by email. “The board of supervisors is committed to keeping all residents of Fresno county safe while preserving individual liberties.”

GV Wire℠ emailed a question to sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti: “Will the Sheriff’s Department enforce the no open bar mandate?”

Botti answered: “Negative.”

Fresno County Environmental Health Team

The Fresno County Department of Health says its environmental health team will actively enforce the bar closure.

“We are going to try to work with the industry to educate them about what the requirements are,” says health director David Pomaville. “We will work with them to make sure that they’re following the order both of the County Health Officer as well as the State.”