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As Fresno COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rise, Local Officials Worried About ‘Steep Surge’



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With Fresno County being dropped back to the ‘purple’ tier by the state of California on Monday, health officials are starting to worry about the amount of hospitalizations and ICU beds available.

On November 1, there were 109 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Fresno County. Fast forward to November 16 and that number now stands at 172, according to state data.

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County health officer

“The slope of this surge now is actually even steeper than it was in the summer.”Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra

There are currently 21 ICU beds available.

“Everyone is shocked by how extraordinary this surge really is,” says Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

Vohra recalls the summertime when our numbers tracked up and the hospitalizations went up into the 300 range. But, this time is different.

“The slope of this surge now is actually even steeper than it was in the summer,” explains Vohra.

COVID-19 Surge

In terms of the number of total COVID-19 cases, they’re rising very quickly.

“We now have 34,593 cases, we’ve added 296 since we last updated,” says Vohra. “If that seems higher than what we were used to, it sure is.”

Vohra says Fresno County is experiencing a surge.

“We’re really worried about how the hospitals may be impacted by this surge that will eventually hit them,” says Vohra.

The county is exploring the possibility of reopening an alternative care site in Porterville. The Fresno Convention Center could also be utilized in the future if necessary.

Business Community Plans Rally

“We’re not in a position where we can say that businesses can open in defiance of the statewide requirements.”Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville

The business community is planning a 12 p.m. rally on Saturday in front of the county health department office to ask for the ability to operate with at least a 25% capacity. With the county in the ‘purple’ tier, restaurants, churches and other businesses must stop indoor service.

In a Facebook post in the ‘Open Central California Safely‘ group states, “We must send a message that small business needs to be treated equally. We are the backbone of this community and all communities across this country.”

Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville says he understands their frustrations, but says the decisions are coming from Sacramento and are based on science.

“We certainly have seen a lot of cases from our contact investigation that have been transmitted in indoor environments and with people working in close proximity to one another,” said Pomaville. “It feels like the restaurant industry is being focused on, but I believe really everybody has some pain in this process right now.”

Pomaville says there are studies that have been done of indoor air at restaurants and dining facilities that have caused the transmission of the disease. He says his office has seen evidence of cases in the county associated with food establishments.

“They (restaurants) have not been the one source that we’re most concerned about, but they are a contributor to gathering people from different families and households into common spaces and that’s where the concern is,” says Pomaville. “We’re not in a position where we can say that businesses can open in defiance of the statewide requirements.”