Valley healthcare facilities feel effects of Delta variant's spread

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fueled by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, Tulare County's COVID-19 case rate is on the rise again at almost 9 cases per 100,000 people.

That's a significant increase from what Tulare County Public Health reported less than a week ago: 4.7 cases per 100,000.

Officials add that it's the highest level seen since March.

"It's a little bit scary just to see that trend going back upward," Tulare County Public Health Emergency Manager Annette Burgos said.

Hospitals around the county are feeling the impact of the virus' comeback.

Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville recently made more room for COVID-positive patients.

They're treating an average of around 10 per day right now, compared to one or two patients earlier in the summer.

"Certainly not the surge we've seen before, but this escalation in cases is alarming and over 95% of them are unvaccinated individuals," Sierra View Chief Nurse Executive Jeffery Hudson-Covolo said.

About a month ago, Kaweah Health Medical Center was caring for less than a handful of COVID positive patients.

As of Tuesday, 53 were in the hospital, including six in the ICU.

Appointments at Kaweah Health's urgent care clinics are also filling up fast.

The Demaree location is seeing more than 100 patients a day.

"It's COVID-related," Kaweah Health Director of Operations Anthony Olivares said. "Ninety percent of the volume, if not more, has been related strictly to COVID on the increase. There's a lot of demand for testing, been a lot of patients coming in with COVID symptoms."

Olivares says the urgent care teams are doing their best to keep up with the high demand.

To avoid overcrowded waiting rooms, they're encouraging patients, including those who want to get a COVID test, to make a telehealth appointment.

"So patients can still schedule their appointment online, see a provider, and still come in and be tested," he said.

The number of infections may be rising, but the key recommendations from health professionals have stayed the same.

Wear your mask while indoors, and get vaccinated.

It will help prevent another surge in the healthcare system.

"If you have decided that you're on the fence about vaccination, it's time to get off the fence and get vaccinated," Hudson-Covolo said. "Failure to do so is putting individuals in the hospital, is putting people at risk in your own sphere of people that you're around."
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