Progress made, some yet to be made, as pandemic continues in the Central Valley

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – Fresno County faced some of the most challenging weeks in the pandemic at the end of January when it had a 15% positivity rate and a case rate of about 65 daily cases per 100,000 people. Three months later and the positivity rate is down to 2.5%.

“The valley was hard hit by COVID-19. For about the first 100 days or something of this year, we had some of the highest rates of COVID infection, hospitalizations, percent positive in California. Us and LA,” Kaiser Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Dee Lacy said.

Around 100,000 people in the U.S. have completed their vaccine series, and the vaccine is proving to be effective in California. The state has one the lowest case rates in the country.

In Fresno County, along with its declining positivity rate, its case rate is at 4.9 new daily cases per 100,000 people.

Vaccines and testing are playing a role for the reduction in the rate of transmission in the county.

“We were able to test over 24,000 people and vaccinate over 20,000 so far, and over 80% of our patients are non-Caucasian communities of color,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, the director of the UCSF Mobile HeaL COVID-19 Equity Project.

But as more sectors open up in the state, Central Valley counties still face challenges. Among them, vaccine hesitancy.

Banh said their efforts have shifted to reaching those who are unsure on whether to get the vaccine or not and those who may not have easy access.

“Now we have to make sure we’re getting that group of people who are hesitant, on the fence, or they mean to, but they lack transportation, they lack the means to do it, they’re busy with work,” Banh said.

But still, there are those who don’t want it at all.

UC Merced Professor of Health Psychology Dr. Martin Hagger said reasons for that include younger people thinking they are less vulnerable – and the politicization of the virus.

“There’s also these concerns about people’s political orientations and how they impact their decision-making around the coronavirus and the mitigation behavior. So that applies to vaccines just as it applies to mask-wearing, social distancing, and so forth,” Hagger said.

As case rates decline in the state and more sectors open up, health experts still raise concerns over variants circulating in the U.S.

And Hagger said there’s a risk of complacency as more sectors open up.

“As case loads drop, things open up, that drives the perception, beliefs in people that we’re out of it, that we’re home free,” Hagger said.

According to the state, around 52% of Fresno County’s 16 years and older population is vaccinated with at least one dose.

“It’s time. If you were waiting to see how is this gonna play out, have enough people gotten the vaccine. It’s time, you’re no longer the leading edge, you can get the vaccine,” Lacy said.

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