Positive cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed in 47 of the 58 counties in California. As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 7,200 cases were reported by individual county health departments, including 46 deaths.
The total number of cases in the central San Joaquin Valley — Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties — has reached 150 cases in less than a month and continues to rise daily.
On Tuesday, Fresno County reported its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases with 15 confirmed positive tests for COVID-19. That brings Fresno County’s total to 68.
Meanwhile, Tulare County health officials announced two new cases, which brings the total number of cases to 45. One person is between the ages of 18 and 25. The other is 26-40 years old.
There has been one related death in Tulare County and three people have recovered.
Madera County, which also reported a COVID-19-related death last week, announced two new cases Tuesday. Madera County has had 23 coronavirus case, including one man who recovered and another made who died.
The Kings County Department of Public Health on Tuesday confirmed a fourth positive diagnosis for the county. Two of the cases have been quarantined and one is being treated in isolation. Of the three, one case is travel-related and two were the result of close contact with a diagnosed case.
Merced County had 10 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of Monday. It did not provide an update Tuesday.
While hospitals across the state are bracing for a spike in patients that could leave them scrambling for available beds, area hospitals are working to bolster resources, including needed ventilators and personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
Comparing the paces of deaths
While, the number of cases continues to grow, the number of Californians dying from COVID-19 is growing at a much slower pace than in some other states.
The number of COVID-19 deaths are currently doubling every three to four days in California. In New York, New Jersey and Michigan, the number of deaths doubles about every one to two days, according to Worldometer, which tracks reports of deaths worldwide from official sources and media reports.
California was the first state to order residents to stay home, on March 19.
Fresno jail releases some inmates
More 200 low-level inmates have been released from Fresno County jail as it preparation for a potential outbreak of coronavirus.
A judicial order gave the jail the authority to release inmates whose sentences were due to be complete within the next 30 days.
Since the order took effect on March 23, there were 230 eligible inmates, said Tony Botti, Sheriff’s spokesman. As of Tuesday, 207 inmates, described in jail records as “general order early release”, had been cut loose over the last 72 hours.
So far, no jail inmates have tested positive for the highly contagious virus. Two inmates were tested last week and both tests came back negative. There are two more inmates who appear to have symptoms and who were tested. The results of those tests are expected next week, Botti said.
$500,000 in grants awarded to local nonprofits
The Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) announced Tuesday that it will grant $500,000 to Central Valley nonprofits responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
CVCF raised or received commitments of more than $300,000 from individual, corporate and philanthropic donors for general emergency. In addition, CVCF committed $200,000 of its own resources to supporting veterans who are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Grant funding will support critical work in the following areas:
• Food/Supply Distribution – Multiple nonprofit partners who are working together to provide prepackaged food and essential supplies through various distribution sites as well as daily individual deliveries to over 800 elderly and immunocompromised residents in Fresno, Madera, and Tulare counties.
• Healthcare Worker Safety – Funding and equipment will be donated to area health careproviders to help protect medical personnel during this critical time.
• Coordinated Communication of Reliable Public Information- Support for United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties to fully staff the 2-1-1 Information and Referral Helpline to manage the increased volume of non-emergency calls from people looking for updated information and assistance. In addition to the call center, funding will support a regional communications campaign in multiple languages to share information and community resources related to the virus.
With the initial funds raised, grants will be made to 12 nonprofit agencies, including the Central California Food Bank, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Catholic Charities Dioceses of Fresno, Poverello House, Marjaree Mason Center, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Fresno Metro Ministries, Every Neighborhood Partnership, HandsOn Central California, Central Valley Children’s Services, and United Way of Fresno & Madera Counties.
Area stores see run on thermometers
You can add thermometers to the list of supplies that are in short supply at area stores. A check of Fresno-area pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, as well as major retailers Walmart and Target, found the basic health-measuring devices missing from shelves. Amazon reported thermometers out of stock to online buyers, as well.
While it’s a rare symptom in a common cold, fever, a cough and shortness of breath are key warnings of the onset of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Avoiding loan sharks, debt traps
Financial experts say the payday loan industry may be set for big profits as millions of Americans look to make up for lost jobs, shifts and other sources of income during the coronavirus health crisis.
“We saw this during the foreclosure crisis, where people were in distress and scammers took advantage to promise to help people connect to relief for a fee they could not afford,” said Kevin Stein, deputy director of the California Reinvestment Coalition.
In 2018, there were 133 payday lenders in the central San Joaquin Valley, according to California records. There were nearly 198 of them 10 years prior when the valley began feeling the effects of the 2008 recession and spiking unemployment.
Before turning to a payday lender, know that there are other means of financial help for those in need.
What’s the cost of the uninsured?
A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of coronavirus treatment for someone with employer insurance can range from $9,000 to $20,000, depending on the severity of the case and whether complications arise.
For the uninsured, getting tested and treated for coronavirus could run as high as $35,000.
The situation hits particularly heavy for those who work in entertainment, tourism and food services, retail services, teaching, social services and construction along with those aged 19 to 54.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that age bracket accounts for nearly 40% of hospitalizations related to coronavirus.
California, where 13% of those 19-54 are uninsured, issued directives to expand health coverage and reduce cost-sharing for cases related to COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress on March 18 requires health insurers to cover the cost of testing for COVID-19 cases but has no provision for coverage of treatment once a patient has been diagnosed to have the virus.
New site needed for field hospital
The state has all but rejected the Fresno Fairgrounds as the site for 250 incoming government beds to treat coronavirus patients. The county is working to find a sitable replacement. Fresno will get the materials committed by the state, including 250 beds as well as IV stands and personal protective equipment, like gloves and masks, as a new site is identified and approved.
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said the state rejected the county’s first choice because many of the buildings on the fairgrounds were decades-old and did not meet current building codes.
Fresno Unified lunches during Spring Break
Reversing course on Monday, Fresno Unified said its grab-and-go school lunch program will continue serving meals over the district’s spring break, which begins April 6.
“We’ve found a way to continue to serve meals to students through spring break,” Superintendent Bob Nelson said in the video announcement.
The meal program will not run on April 10 — a district holiday — but will be filled by community partners, Nelson said.
Prosecutors to store owners: Price gouging won’t be tolerated
Central San Joaquin Valley prosecutors continue to investigate reports of price gouging — sellers raising prices more than 10% over the price asked before the time of a crisis.
There have been 246 complaints of price gouging in Fresno, according to the Fresno City Attorney’s Office, and the city of Fresno announced its first $10,000 administrative fine on March 19 to Super Liquor for allegedly selling bottled water at an inflated price.
In Tulare County, District Attorney Tim Ward said his office has received about 50 calls for price gouging through Friday and that investigators have formed a task force to pursue the claims.
Clovis officially adopts emergency orders
The Clovis City Council chambers were closed to the public on Monday as the members conducted city business online in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. The council unanimously approved new policies for when it meets, representing something of a new normal — at least for now.
The City Council also formally adopted emergency orders for businesses in town. Gov. Gavin Newsom gave orders earlier this month to close all nonessential businesses where people may gather. Clovis’s declaration ordered the closing of bars, wineries, breweries, pubs, restaurants, gyms, health clubs, trampoline parks, arcades and theaters.
The orders also allow for leave pay for city employees who can’t work during the pandemic. Starting April 1, full-time employees can get 80 hours of paid “COVID leave,” per a federal mandate, according to Assistant City Manager John Holt
Another order allows the city’s code enforcement to treat price gouging with administrative fines that are levied by the city without having to involve law enforcement. Fresno adopted a similar policy this month.
Jose Ramirez’s title defense postponed – again
For a second time, WBC/WBO super lightweight world champion Jose Ramirez’s title defense against Viktor Postol is postponed because of the coronavirus, Top Rank said Tuesday.
The fight had been slated for May 9 at the Save Mart Center. Prior to that the fight had been slated for Feb. 1 at a golf resort in the port city of Haikou, China. That date was called off because of the coronavirus.
A new date has yet to be set.
Restaurant, donors deliver free meals
The Fresno burger restaurant Take 3 has been able to offer some 250 free meals thanks to customer donations
“Every place we went to was so excited to get free food,” said co-owner Desirae Washington. “We get to surprise other hardworking people who are struggling, just working like we are.”
Here’s how you can nominate a business or make a donation.