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Are COVID Variants Stalling Fresno County's Reopening? Here's What Top Doc Says.
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
March 16, 2021

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Eleven counties moved to a less restrictive tier Tuesday, from ‘purple’ (widespread) to ‘red ‘(substantial). Fresno County was not one of them.

87% of all counties are now in a less restrictive tier.

“I’m afraid that our our our rapid drop is slowing down, and it may be flattening out.”– Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim health officer

Fresno County’s 11.9 cases per 100k (down from 12.6 one week ago) is still not meeting the threshold of 10.0 necessary to move into a less restrictive tier. Plus, to move to a lower tier with regular progression, a county must meet the case rate and test positivity thresholds for that tier for two consecutive weeks.

California’s 7-day positivity rate is 1.8%. Fresno County’s is 5.1%.

That means the earliest Fresno County could get into ‘red’ is Mar. 30.

“I’m afraid that our rapid drop is slowing down, and it may be flattening out,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer.

Meanwhile, Tulare County moved into the “red” tier and can begin wider reopenings on Wednesday. Kings County remains in “purple” despite earlier predictions it would move into red.

Variants Playing a Role

More variants of COVID-19 are continuing to show up throughout the state. Over the weekend, San Bernardino County reported California’s first known case of a coronavirus variant detected in Brazil. On Tuesday, the COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom has been detected in Contra Costa County for the first time, officials there announced.

“It’s not going to surprise anyone if they ultimately find variant here in Fresno County,” said Vohra. “And that may explain why our numbers are plateauing more than dropping.”

Vohra says his team is working hard to get samples sent to the state testing lab to determine what variants could be circulating here.

“We’re hoping that we can start to get some variant analysis from Fresno County in the next couple of weeks,” said Vohra.

New Sanger Vaccination Site

Official portrait of Buddy Mendes

“Fresno County has been partnering with the city of Sanger since the beginning of the pandemic. I am very pleased to see the continued effort to ensure our smaller communities have access to vaccination.”Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes

The Sanger Community Center is home to a new COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

“Fresno County has been partnering with the City of Sanger since the beginning of the pandemic. I am very pleased to see the continued effort to ensure our smaller communities have access to vaccination,” said County Supervisor Buddy Mendes in a statement.

The Sanger clinic is accepting appointments for the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Residents who are currently eligible can schedule their appointment via MyTurn. Residents who do not have internet access can call MyTurn at 1-833-422-4255.

Mendes believes the only way out of the pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. To that end, he’s helping to battle the issue of vaccine hesitancy among certain groups.

“Some people we’re saying, well, I have diabetes. That’s why I shouldn’t get it. No, you need to get it because you have diabetes,” said Mendes.

Will ‘Purple’ Tier Help Get Fresno County More Vaccine?

GV Wire℠ asked Fresno County’s Community Health Manager Joe Prado if being one of the few counties in the ‘purple’ tier will bolster the argument for more vaccine here?

“The vaccine allocation isn’t connected to that,” explained Prado. “But what the vaccine allocation is connected to is the HPI (Healthy Places Index) one first quartile.”

The state says that a county with a population greater than 106,000 residents, the county must ensure that the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods do not significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.

“For Fresno County, we have 70% of our population that meets the HPI quartile,” said Prado.

Prado says he’s working with Blue Shield, which manages the state’s vaccination program, to highlight how well the county is doing in getting vaccines out into the hardest hit communities.  He points out that Fresno County is doing well with the allocation formula in terms of occupations in the tiers, a significant amount of vaccine going to the ZIP codes with high HPI, and overall performance.

“All those three major components I think will feed into a larger allocation (of vaccine),” predicts Prado.

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