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A support team from the state met with Fresno County leaders on Monday about how to corral the COVID-19 surge in the Central Valley.

Fresno County has just 11% of its 149 ICU beds available, according to public health officials. In the past 14 days alone, the county has seen 5,120 new coronavirus cases.

“If you ask me today what our biggest area of concern, in a state as large as ours, it is, indeed, the Central Valley.”Gov. Gavin Newsom

Tulare County is down to 6% of its ICU beds and has seen 2,737 new coronavirus cases in the last two weeks.

Madera County only 8% of its ICU beds available, while 822 new COVID-19 cases have occurred the last 14 days.

Central Valley Biggest Area of Concern

“If you ask me today what our biggest area of concern, in a state as large as ours, it is, indeed, the Central Valley,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Monday briefing with reporters.

The counties of greatest focus are San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Kern. The state is allocating $52 million in new funding to Central Valley counties to help with their response efforts.

Newsom says the targeted interventions are focusing on the essential workforce, farm workers, and the hospitality sector.

“This disease is impacting our diverse communities, disproportionately impacting the Latino community, (and) disproportionately impacting the community in the Central Valley,” said Newsom.

Unified Support Team

The “unified support teams” are tasked with boosting on-the-ground efforts to reduce transmission rates. Fresno County’s team consists of about a dozen people representing a variety of state agencies. Their first meeting was Monday; another is set for Tuesday.

The state’s Fresno County team is led by Susan Fanelli, who is assistant director at the California Department of Public Health.

The teams will review data and look at outbreaks in factories, long-term care facilities, high-density housing developments, and agricultural workplaces.

The teams will work side by side with local public health, emergency, medical, community, and business organizations to evaluate needs and develop strategies and interventions to address them.

These assessments could lead to improved testing, contact tracing, disease investigation, data management, public education and surge planning for healthcare systems.

The teams will review data and look at outbreaks in factories, long-term care facilities, high-density housing developments, and agricultural workplaces.

The team spent the morning at the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health Health and Wellness Center on East Dakota Avenue. Members asked questions of county health department officials related to housing for farmworkers impacted by COVID-19, and whether the homeless community was responsive to the county’s offers of help.

Image of a COVID-19 strategy meeting in Fresno, California

Fresno County public health officials met with state experts sent here to help corral the Valley’s COVID-19 surge. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

Imperial County

The support teams effort is similar to the one carried out recently in Imperial County, which included the deployment of state and federal personnel to reduce transmission rates, augment surge capacity at local hospitals, and operate an 80-bed alternate care site.

That effort boosted public health support for disease investigation and contact tracing and helped manage outbreaks at workplaces and other settings where large numbers gather.

Those efforts dramatically reduced the number of COVID-19 patients being transferred out of the county for care. According to the governor’s office, the 14-day case rate in Imperial County dropped 63%, from 836 cases per 100,000 to 308 cases per 100,000 people.

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