FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Operations at the newly opened Fresno Animal Center are being scaled back by city officials after a COVID-19 outbreak among staff at the shelter.

The Centers for Disease Control defines an outbreak as three or more linked cases in a 14-day period. This surge in cases started last week, and since then the city has scaled back on hours and required staff to wear masks.

“It’s unfortunate, you know for the last two years we have experienced these COVID outbreaks,” said Mayor Jerry Dyer. “Whether it is in one of our city departments, and now in the animal center, so it is not unique to us in city government.”

The Fresno Animal Center opened its doors just a little over a month ago but already the shelter is cutting back on hours after eight of 40 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

“20% of the employees are not overly significant but it is requiring us to modify our hours,” said Dyer. “If it gets to be a higher number then it is going to require us to make some decisions in terms of what we do from there.”

Mayor Jerry Dyer said the center is opening at 12:00 p.m. each day – instead of 10:00 am to keep up with the animal intake. The city also implemented a staff mask mandate.

“So we can prevent the spread, not only internally but in the event that one of our employees has it, to prevent them from giving it to someone else like a customer,” said Dyer.

Fresno Humane runs the city animal center and Fresno County’s animal shelter. Fresno County officials say they are not aware of any staffing shortages at the county shelter.

“As predicted we are still having high numbers,” said Interim Health Officer Fresno County Dr. Rais Vohra.

As a whole, COVID-19 numbers are on the rise as the BA.4 and BA.5 variants hit Fresno County, with the test positivity rate at around 19%.

Vohra said the positivity rate is likely higher because of the at-home testing kits where people don’t report their results.

The latest figures show the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations is around 220 in Fresno County. In early May, the COVID-19-related hospitalizations number around 30 patients.

The City of Frenso plans to monitor the cases and re-evaluate policies going forward.