Fresno public safety workforce strained by surge in COVID cases

Coronavirus

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) –As the spread of omicron continues, dozens of Fresno city employees are testing positive every day. In the police department, more than 100 workers are sick with the virus. 

“We started off this month fast and furious, but unfortunately it’s really about the contact at the end of the holiday season,” said assistant city manager Gregory Barfield. 

About 1 percent of city personnel is testing positive for covid on a daily basis.

“What we’ve been seeing is between 25 and 40 positive cases a day. Right now this morning, we already have processed 17 positives,” said Barfield. “We’re looking at over 110 cases in the police department, 35 in fire, and half a dozen in many other departments.”

The assistant city manager said public services have not been impacted, though.

“Some folks are working additional overtime to backfill all those positions, particularly police, fire, and our transit services.”

He adds about 70% of city employees are vaccinated, and masks are required while working indoors. 

In 2020, three city employees died from the virus; two police officers and a city hall worker. No deaths were reported in 2021. 

Staffing shortages are a theme across other industries.

“The staff members that we do have, we’re losing them right now a little bit to exposure,” said Raul Gutierrez Jr., owner of Papi’s Mex Grill in northeast Fresno and president of the Fresno chapter of the California Restaurant Association. 

Gutierrez said only about 10% of his staff is out sick, but he’s heard of other businesses facing bigger impacts.

“We definitely have heard of some restaurants closing down temporarily just because of staffing,”

This week, Fresno County Public Health announced it’s receiving 84,000 testing kits to distribute to the community, Including some restaurants like Papi’s.

“We’re giving out covid tests to all restaurants and restaurateurs. So basically we’re gonna allow restaurants to come pick up five test kits,” Gutierrez said. 

He added they’re set to receive 7,400 at-home testing kits. He got half on Friday. The county is sending another portion to 27 community-based organizations to hand out to vulnerable populations.

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