Central Valley reaches 50,000 cases as California battles wildfires & pandemic

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CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KSEE) – The Central Valley reached a grim milestone on Wednesday night — 50,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The pandemic has especially hit essential workers and the most vulnerable in the Valley the hardest.

According to the Fresno County Department of Public Health’s dashboard, out of the 212 COVID-19-related deaths in the county, 127 — or roughly 60% — were Latinos.

“We’re reminded as we reach this milestone that people are still working. Our essential workers haven’t stopped working since March,” Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria said, noting that even through the pandemic and the bad air quality due to the wildfires, farmworkers continue to work. “It is a reminder to leaders here in the Valley that we must continue to do more to protect them.”

As Fresno County continues to battle against the rapid spread of the virus, hospitalizations are slightly down from a month ago.

According to state data, on July 20, 307 people with COVID-19 or suspected of having it were in the county’s hospitals. On Aug. 20, that number is at 273.

“The hospitals are doing pretty good, comparatively, but there is still a concern about ICU beds,” Fresno County Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch said.

On Thursday, 64 COVID-19 or COVID-19-suspected patients were in the ICU, up 10 from a month ago.

Lynch said the teams with the Department of Defense that were deployed to three Valley hospitals a month ago have been essential in supporting the ICUs. But they could leave soon.

“We have them for nine more days,” Lynch said. “We’ve asked the state to give us at least through September to extend it and if they can’t do that, to at least give us two more weeks.”

He said as of now, there’s no immediate plan to open the alternate care site inside the Fresno Convention Center. However, he said they’re prepared to open it if the time comes to do so.

“As we move forward into the fall and the unknown, we will be ready to open it if it’s needed,” Lynch said.

As California battles wildfires across the state on top of the pandemic, Lynch said they were notified that the alternate care site in Porterville is not taking new patients because the state medical team assisting with the site is now needed to help support the wildfires in Northern California.

“They have to move these medical assets where they’re needed the most and so we’re gonna help support that movement,” he said.

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