COVID cases rise in Fresno County, health officials say even vaccinated should consider mask in high-risk settings

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FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE)- The presence of the delta variant is increasing in Fresno County, and health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated.

“COVID is very, very real, and it’s still with us. It had felt like with the reopening, that we could kind of put it in our rearview mirror and we could get on with our lives. Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” Fresno County Department of Public Health Physician Dr. John Zweifler said Thursday.

Zweifler said COVID-19 cases in Fresno County have increased by about 20% over the last week.

In Madera County, cases are also increasing.

“We’re concerned because the rate of increase is increasing,” Madera County Public Health Director Sara Bosse said.

According to the Fresno County Department of Public Health, 22 cases of the delta variant have been detected in the county. But not all samples are sent to a lab to get sequenced, so Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra has said he expects the number of delta variant cases in the county to be higher.

“The rapid spread of the delta variant is concerning,” Vohra said. “Actual numbers are estimated to be 10 times the reported number because of low testing rates in Fresno County,” he said.

Zweifler said it’s estimated that the variant accounts for 40% of cases in the county, urging people, even those who are vaccinated, to be cautious.

“I think it’s up to all of us to just be aware of what our high-risk situations are. To be thoughtful and careful. If you’re in a crowded setting with others who are not wearing masks and are not vaccinated. Even if you’re vaccinated, consider wearing a mask,” Zweifler said.

And in a press release on Thursday afternoon, the Fresno County Department of Public Health said masks are required for people while indoors and “strongly recommended for all others.”

According to state data, COVID-19 hospitalizations have also risen in the county, and the county health department added in its press release that they anticipate hospitalizations and death rates will rise in the coming weeks.

But Zweifler said he doesn’t expect a dramatic increase given that much of the older population is vaccinated.

“However, we’re gonna see younger individuals and folks who have their lives to live who are gonna get really sick and die and its just unfortunate because it could absolutely be prevented,” Zweifler said.

Dr. Kenny Banh with the UCSF Fresno COVID-19 Equity Project said more people have been coming into their COVID-19 testing site while at their vaccination site, they’re vaccinating around 60 to 70 people a day.

“Obviously we can do a lot more consider where Fresno County’s vaccination rate is,” Banh said.

Per the county’s recent data, about 45% of the county’s total population is vaccinated with at least one dose.

Zweifler said throughout the country, they’re seeing that 98-99% of the COVID-19 patients inside the hospitals are unvaccinated.

 “The best way to make sure you don’t get really sick from COVID is to get vaccinated,” Zweifler said.

“I use the analogy of its a seatbelt. If you’re in a car crash, the seatbelt is protective. Is it perfect? It’s not perfect. Its not gonna save 100% lives but nobody would argue you shouldn’t be wearing your seatbelt in a car crash. That absolutely does save lives and its the best protection you can do right now,” Banh added.

Health officials are now racing to get vaccines into more people’s arms.

“The delta variant is bad, but it’s not necessarily more deadly than other strains. The next variant may be,” Zweifler said.

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