San Joaquin Valley described as ‘most in need’ by Newsom, Fresno Unified sticks with its reopening plan

Local News

CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KSEE) – Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday a $2 billion proposal to phase in in-person learning for students in early 2021.

The plan would prioritize those students in transitional kindergarten through second grade, English-language learners, foster youth, and students with special instructional needs to get them back into the classrooms as early as February.

Newsom said younger students face more challenges with virtual learning.

“The younger cohorts are particularly challenged in this environment and that’s why this is so important. That we move forward in a phased way. Prove that we can do this right,” Newsom said.

He said distance learning would still be an option for students and families.

The funding would go toward testing, contact tracing, and providing personal protective equipment for schools. Newsom said teachers would also be included in Phase 1B of vaccinations.

But among guidelines counties would have to meet is ensuring the case rate is below 28 daily cases per 100,000 people. According to the state, Fresno County is currently seeing 84.9 daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

Elementary schools would also have to submit a COVID-19 safety plan to both local and state officials. Local health departments can disapprove the plan within five days.

Currently, the San Joaquin Valley faces some of the highest rates of transmission in the state. It is unknown where the transmission rates will be in the early spring of next year.

“People are going to have to check in with their county health officers and the state Department of Public Health to determine, ‘Is it appropriate to move forward or not?’ That kind of consultation will be critical,” said Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction.

In a statement, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said the district has worked hard on a collective plan that balances a safe return with the need to get schools normalized.

At this point, we are not deviating from that expressed plan as we review the new information released this morning.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson

That plan is to allow in-person learning once Fresno County reaches the orange tier of the blueprint reopening plan.

In a statement on Facebook, the Fresno Teachers Association said it has worked to develop a reopening plan that balances the health and academic needs of students, educators, and the community.

We, along with Fresno Unified School District leadership, remain committed to the implementation of that plan in the Spring semester.

Fresno Teachers Association

In Fresno County, hospitals remain overcapacity while they prepare for what could be another surge following the holidays.

“San Joaquin remains from a staffing perspective the most in need. It’s the area of the state, this region broadly defined, that’s most in need,” Newsom said Wednesday. “We are trying our best to supplement through state staff.”

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said he anticipates that hospitals in the San Joaquin Valley region will continue to see COVID-19 patients being admitted into the ICU.

“Those hospitals are in a tough spot at the moment. We’re addressing their staffing needs, but we also anticipate because of the disproportionately high relative to the rest of the state transmission rates that the region still is seeing that they will continue to have additional patients coming to the emergency departments.”

Approximately 20 medical personnel with the Department of Defense arrived at Community Regional Medical Center on Tuesday to help alleviate some of the pressure from the hospital. The team is made up of nurses, doctors, and respiratory technicians that will be staffing ICU beds.

But healthcare workers say the best thing the community can do is whatever they can to avoid getting – and transmitting – COVID-19.

“So that we don’t run into a situation where we’re totally overrun with patients needing resources that we just don’t have,” said Dr. W. Eugene Egerton, the chief medical officer at Saint Agnes Medical Center.

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