Cars lined up through the parking lot of Fresno City College Tuesday, not for class, but for a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
The drive-thru site, run by UCSF-Fresno, hopes to ramp up to 600 COVID-19 vaccine doses a day soon, and eventually up to about 2,000 a day.
“That’s big,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who stopped by the site. “That gets us closer to 50,000 vaccines a week that we want to achieve.”
Fresno County is in range of moving into the red tier for reopening as soon as next Wednesday according to the latest state data. With new cases falling to 9.6 per 100k residents, and a case positivity rate of 4.5%, the county just needs to hold or improve on those levels through next Tuesday to move into the less restrictive tier.
It’s numbers like those, and the numbers of people now getting vaccinated on her campus, that led Fresno City College President Dr. Carole Goldsmith to make a bold statement just feet away from the vaccination line Tuesday.
“Right now we have plans for about 30% of a return of some type of on ground activity (in the fall),” said Goldsmith. “With the possibility of expanding maybe even up to 50% if our community gets healthier.”
“Right now we have plans for about 30% of a return of some type of on ground activity (in the fall). With the possibility of expanding maybe even up to 50% if our community gets healthier.”–Fresno City College President Dr. Carole Goldsmith
Goldsmith says if the county’s case trend continues to decline, she and her team will work with labor groups to expand on-campus offerings this fall. She also says Fresno City College nursing students will get a chance to administer some of the vaccines at the campus site in support of that goal.
The Fresno County Department of Public Health welcomed the new UCSF-Fresno site at FCC. The location is nearby neighborhoods with vulnerable populations that are a focus for vaccination efforts.
“We see them as a prime partner for us in the vaccine response,” said Fresno County Community Health Manager Joe Prado to reporters during a Zoom call.
Fresno County also debuted a new online tracking tool providing information on local vaccination rates.
A total of 334,334 vaccine doses have been administered which represents 28.9% of the total population in the county (residents 16 years and older that have received at least one dose.) Health officials want to get that number up to the 80% range in order to approach herd immunity.
No wait COVID-19 vaccinations right now at UCSF Fresno COVID-19 Equity Project. New location at Fresno City College. Enter from Blackstone at Weldon. First and second doses of Pfizer. #ucsffresno #covidequityproject #covid19vaccine pic.twitter.com/gRejkQegNW
— UCSF Fresno (@UCSFFresno) March 23, 2021
Skilled Nursing Facilities: No COVID-19 Cases Within the Last Two Weeks
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, Fresno County’s skilled nursing facilities have reported zero new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.
“This is really remarkable,” Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said. “We just think that this is so wonderful because that was one of the most fragile and vulnerable and most tragic elements of this pandemic.”
Vohra points to factors such as hygiene and safety protocols the facility managers have been adhering to. But, he also says this proves the science behind vaccines.
“I think this is a direct consequence of that really great vaccination effort that was happening nationwide, but here in Fresno County as well,” said Vohra. “So if you needed proof that vaccines work, there it is.”
Spring Break a Concern
With the county closer to getting into the red tier, Vohra is cautiously optimistic but warns that spring break activities could slow or reverse the county’s progress.
He said he’s worried about the possible impact of recent large scale public gatherings in places like Florida.
“I am concerned,” admits Vohra. “I would say postpone your spring break.”
Lagging Testing Numbers
The state of California will reward counties for going above and beyond when it comes to COVID-19 testing. But, as Fresno County found out this week, the opposite can also happen.
For example, the County’s 9.6 cases per 100k was inflated from 9.4 due to inadequate testing. That’s why the state’s dashboard has a caveat next to the stat that reads, “Adjusted case rate for tier assignment.”
“Certainly we could be doing more testing,” says Vohra, who says that just because someone gets vaccinated doesn’t mean they should stop getting tested.
Vohra says the county messaging will likely ramp up to continue stressing the importance of surveillance testing to determine whether we are experiencing something doctors call ‘break through infection.’ In other words, it’s a positive COVID-19 infection in someone that’s already been vaccinated.
“The good news is if you’re vaccinated, your break through infection will will probably be very mild and that you won’t need to get hospitalized,” said Vohra.