COVID hospitalizations still rising in Fresno area. When will free masks and tests arrive?

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/ezamora@fresnobee.com
·3 min read

The number of people requiring a hospital bed in Fresno County who tested positive for COVID-19 climbed by nearly 50 over the weekend, according to state numbers on Monday.

The total of 568 people in hospitals included 83 who required intensive care units to be treated, reports show. That’s 49 more people in area hospitals than on Friday.

The numbers come after last week broke records both in Fresno County and across the entire central San Joaquin Valley for the number of people testing positive as the omicron variant has peaked virus counts in the state.

There have now been 193,642 cases in Fresno County, and more than 401,000 in six Valley counties.

Hospitals and public health officials have repeatedly asked residents to get vaccinated to help keep hospitals from being further overwhelmed. Vaccinated people are less likely to have the most severe symptoms of the virus and thus less likely to need a hospital.

An official with UCSF Fresno last week said 70% of patients admitted into the hospital were not vaccinated.

Hospitals continue to be pushed to their limits as medical staffers battle the roller coaster of hospitalizations that rise and fall with each variant, according to Deanette Sisson, the chief nursing officer for Saint Agnes Medical Center.

“This current surge is especially hard because so many more of our staff are being affected and are out sick, so others are being asked to take on even more at a time when they’re already so exhausted,” she said on Thursday. “I’m amazed by their resilience and so deeply grateful for each of them.”

Some counties doing better

The California Department of Public Health in a Monday update reported the daily COVID-19 case rate at 236 per 100,000 residents, down about 19% in the past week from a peak of about 291 per 100,000.

Statewide test positivity fell to 20.4% for its lowest reading of 2022, down from a peak of 23% earlier this month.

CDPH reported 11 counties with positivity rates of 30% or higher. Those were Riverside and Imperial counties in Southern California, plus nine rural counties across Northern California and the Central Valley: Merced, Fresno, Yuba, Tulare, Stanislaus, Trinity, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Sutter.

Test and masks

The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents starting this week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The White House said the masks will be made available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The administration is also purchasing 1 billion tests to be made available to people in the U.S. for free as the omicron coronavirus variant — which evades COVID-19 vaccines and transmits more easily — spreads throughout the country.

The first 500 million of those tests are now available online at COVIDTests.gov.

U.S. Postmaster General and CEO Louis DeJoy said the 650,000 women and men of the postal service are ready. “We have been working closely with the administration and are well prepared to accept and deliver test kits on the first day the program launches,” he said in a statement.

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