In the span of almost two years, 2,364 Fresno County residents have lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus.
That translates into countless missed hugs and conversations, as well as get-togethers, graduation parties, and wedding celebrations that feel incomplete because of departed family members.
Now, as the new Omicron variant takes hold throughout the country, much uncertainty remains on what next year will look like.
“We’ve been told that the boosters work and yet people are still coming down with infections or breakthrough infections because we’re just not able to close that vaccine gap,” said Fresno County interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.
“So to me, it’s very tragic because every time I review these deaths, I just think about, just how much grief that family will have to now bear. I really just don’t want to extend that if we can at all prevent it.”
Fresno County Case Rates Over 100k
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 149,318 Fresno County residents have tested positive for the virus.
On a weekly basis, Fresno County averages 14.8 cases per 100,000 residents. And, just in the last week, California has reached a daily average of at least 16.4 new cases per every 100,000 people.
While Fresno County saw a huge surge of cases last winter and then again this fall, COVID cases in Fresno County appear to have plateaued — for now.
The concern is, will hospitals have the capacity to handle more patients if Omicron aggressively spreads in the county?
Vohra pointed out at a Zoom briefing earlier this month that “hospitals have remained at overcapacity in the county for non-COVID-related issues.”
Will Fresno See A Surge In COVID Cases This Winter?
With the first case of Omicron reported in Fresno two weeks ago, Vohra said they were preparing their staff in the event COVID case rates rise again.
Vohra says Fresno County tends to lag behind other counties in the state after COVID-19 cases begin to rise, but Fresno could soon see an increase that could potentially overwhelm hospitals.
“We tend to act a little bit different than some of the other counties around the state. We saw that with our fall surge where our numbers just didn’t parallel what was going on in northern or Southern California, and so we may just be kind of a little bit more delayed,” said Vohra.
“Either way, we are going to have a surge based on what they’ve been able to calculate with the numbers that they have.”
Across the Country and State, Cases Are Surging
Days after Christmas celebrations forced many Californians inside due to storms, the state eclipsed five million total COVID-19 cases.
A report by the Associated Press states COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have soared to the highest level on record at over 265,000 cases per day. The surge is driven largely by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The United States has now totaled up to 53.2 million COVID-19 cases and 819,000 deaths.
Meanwhile, coronavirus-related hospitalizations have been rising slowly in California, up about 12% in the last 7 days to 4,401. That’s less than half as many as during the late summer peak and one-fifth of a year ago, before vaccines were widely available reports AP.
Where Can You Get Vaccinations and Boosters?
Vaccinations in the county continue to lag behind the state average.
The Fresno County’s vaccine dashboard shows most adults eligible for a booster haven’t yet received their third shot. Out of more than 500,000 fully vaccinated county residents, about 75,000 have received their booster.