Fresno County health officials worried about COVID-19 surge as holiday season approaches

Coronavirus

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Fresno County hospitals are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients than they did last fall, but officials warn they’re still in disaster mode.

“We’re number four in the state in regard to the number of hospitalized patients, and that’s a big number considering the other big counties that we go up against in regard to size and population,” said Dan Lynch, EMS director in Fresno County. 

As of Friday, 240 people were hospitalized. The Health Department says it’s a drop from previous numbers but it’s still concerning.

“Our Central Valley is still the hotbed for the state in regards to hospitalized COVID patients,” said Lynch. 

The county is seeing a decrease in cases, though. In late August, Public Health recorded 500 cases per day. This past week, that number went down to 275 cases per day, over a seven-day average.

But as the holiday season approaches, health officials are worried about another surge.

“The best way to protect your family, and that’s the young, the elderly and everyone around, is to get vaccinated. The more people vaccinated at your gathering, you’re really limiting the potential COVID spread within that gathering,” said Joe Prado, interim assistant director at the Department of Public Health.

Prado added that vaccination trends are slowing down.

“We saw a little bit of an uptick where our doses per day went up to about 2,500 doses, and that was during the second week of booster availability. We’re down a little bit below 2,000 doses a day.”

He says there are enough COVID-19 shots, but low demand.

“And that is definitely concerning. Right now, our one dose total population is about 55%. Our eligible population, we’re about 67%.”

Public health officials say the county is seeing some improvements, though. Schools are having fewer outbreaks, and the assess and refer policy ended on Friday morning for Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties. Under the policy, only patients with life-threatening injuries or emergency conditions were transferred to a hospital.

“And a lot of that had to do with the fact that hospitals are managing a little bit better in the emergency departments, although very busy still,” said Lynch. 

Public health says the positivity rate is back up at 7.8%, but the goal is to get below 5%.

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