With the first case of the Omicron variant just announced in Fresno County and Christmas only a few days away, Fresno County health officials are urging residents to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
The Fresno County Department of Public says that in the past two years, COVID-19 has surged following holiday events. That has led to deaths, overburdened hospitals, and negative impacts on businesses.
“We understand this time of year is typically reserved for gathering and sharing of the holidays,” officials said in a news release. “Last winter showed us that celebrations can lead to a rapid rise in cases and surge in our medical system — the FCDPH is reminding residents to stay safe during the holidays and celebrate in ways that don’t spread COVID-19.”
Mask Mandate In Effect
The California Department of Public Health previously announced that from Dec. 15 through Jan. 15, 2022, masks must be worn in all indoor public settings to mitigate any potential spread. However, there is no local enforcement of the measure, and state officials have admitted that compliance is largely voluntary.
“With the recent emergence of the Omicron variant, the FCDPH encourages the public to continue to help minimize the potential spread over the holiday season,” says Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County Interim Health Officer.
“I urge residents to continue the practices of washing their hands, wearing masks indoors, and most importantly, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 — these practices remain our best defense to reduce the potential spread of Omicron and help prevent a winter surge.”
Hospital Capacity Still a Concern in Fresno County
Hospital capacity in Fresno County has always been strained, but during the pandemic, hospitals have been running at over-capacity for almost a year. Now the new Omicron variant threatens to continue that trajectory.
While cases and hospitalizations are low at the moment, Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch says the extra capacity they would normally have during the holidays is taken up by COVID patients.
“Patients hospitalized with COVID- 19 have essentially used up the few available hospital beds we would normally have, which significantly impacts the hospitals and their emergency departments,” said Lynch.
Additional staffing provided by the state has been extended through January, Lynch said.
Safety Protocols for the Holidays
- As you gather with friends and family, keep COVID-19 in mind.
- If you want to meet with family and friends, wear a mask and get vaccinated.
- Take steps to prevent spread by keeping gatherings small, wearing a mask when indoors or when social distancing is not possible.
- If your guests are unvaccinated or you don’t know their status, plan gatherings that are small, short, and outdoors.
- When indoors, open windows or turn on the ventilation. HEPA filters reduce risk as well.
- Wash your hands often, practice social distancing and avoid crowded settings.
- Get tested if you have symptoms and stay home if sick.
- If you plan to attend an event, a proactive step you can take is to get a negative antigen COVID-19 test within one day of an event, or a negative PCR test within two days of the event to ensure you and others are safe.
Individuals can visit the MyTurn portal to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment or visit any vaccine clinic or pharmacy.