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COVID Hospitalizations Worry Fresno's Top Doc. County Surpasses 35,000 Cases.
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
November 21, 2020

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Fresno County passed a sobering 35,000 COVID-19 cases on Friday with the latest health department report.

Since the pandemic began, 35,278 COVID cases have been reported, with 463 deaths and 171 patients currently hospitalized.
“We’ve been watching those hospital numbers very closely. They’re ticking up,” said Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra during a Friday afternoon Zoom call with reporters.
Vohra was wearing hospital scrubs during the video call, preparing to work a shift in a hospital emergency room shortly after.

Holiday Gatherings a Real Concern

“I really am very worried that if this surge doesn’t abate, that if people aren’t careful, and they’re not making good choices over Thanksgiving and into Christmas that we really will exceed the capacity of the hospitals to take care of all the patients that they need to,” said Vohra.

“If people aren’t careful, and they’re not making good choices over Thanksgiving and into Christmas that we really will exceed the capacity of the hospitals to take care of all the patients that they need to.”Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra

COVID-19 Vaccine

Vohra said he’s hopeful the county will have a supply of COVID-19 vaccine available sometime in the month of December. But that’s not a guarantee.

Earlier in the week Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria told GV Wire℠ she had been told the county “would” be getting vaccine. However, Vohra says he’s “hopeful” the department would receive vaccines around December 15.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee  on Dec. 10 to discuss an emergency use application from drugmaker Pfizer of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

Vaccine Mandate

GV Wire℠ asked Vohra if the county would mandate that health care workers be required to get the vaccine once it arrives.

“We’re going to ask the state about that,” Vohra said.

On August 31, the county health department issued an order requiring that physicians and other health care workers at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities be vaccinated against the flu.

Bloomberg School of Public Health experts say states have the legal and constitutional authority to require that the people who live in that state be vaccinated, or to introduce a vaccine mandate. Those experts also say private employers can also require a vaccine if they have a “reasonable basis.”

Uptick in Acute Alcoholic Hepatitis

UCSF-Fresno’s Dr. Marina Roytman says health officials are seeing a large uptick in acute alcoholic hepatitis. It’s an inflammation of the liver caused by drinking alcohol, it can happen in as little as a few days of heavy drinking.

“We appear to be coping with the pandemic by drinking,” says Roytman. “Over the last few weeks, and maybe the last two or three months are really starting to see the impact of drinking and what it does.”

Roytman says cases of acute alcoholic hepatitis are normally rare, but that’s changed dramatically. “I have never seen anything like this. This is unprecedented,” says Roytman.

She encouraged local residents to monitor their use of alcohol.

Vino Grille & Spirits Owner Reveals He Had COVID-19

“I had very slight symptoms. We thought it was a sinus infection.”Chuck Van Fleet, owner of Vino Grille & Spirits

Chuck Van Fleet, owner of Vino Grille & Spirits and president of the Fresno chapter of the California Restaurant Association confirmed on the county’s health call that he had contracted COVID-19 in July.

“I had very slight symptoms. We thought it was a sinus infection,” says Van Fleet. “I came to work every day. I wore a mask everyday, I washed my hands. The only person that contracted it was my wife.”

Van Fleet cited that as an example of how he believes restaurants can keep people safe and should be allowed to open indoor facilities.

“A lot of people hold you guys (referencing the Fresno County Department of Public Health) responsible for this, and it’s not” said Van Fleet, referring to COVID-19 directives and mandates issued by the state.

Van Fleet says the heads of the California Restaurant Association are meeting with California health officials. He said lobbyists are also pushing for a partial reopening of restaurants at 25% indoor capacity for counties in the state’s most restrictive “purple” COVID tier.

A rally is scheduled Saturday, organized by members of the “Open Central California Safely” Facebook group, in front of the county health department office. Members, many of which are restaurant owners, are also advocating for changes allowing them to open indoor dining rooms at 25% capacity.

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