Local hospitals seeing some progress in fight against COVID-19

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Community Medical Centers is seeing signs of progress in the battle against COVID-19.

More than 6,000 employees, providers, and vendors have now been vaccinated against the virus, and it appears to be making a significant impact.

The number of those unable to work due to exposure or positive test results has declined from 220 two weeks ago, to 160 one week ago, to 89 today.

That's a 60 percent reduction.

For the first time in more than a month, health experts say they're seeing a decrease in COVID-19 patients and hospitalizations.

In just the last couple of weeks, the reported number of people infected has fallen more than 25% statewide.

Some local hospitals are now seeing similar numbers - Community Medical Centers is currently caring for 272 COVID-19 patients -- compared to 359 just two weeks ago.

"The number of new cases is certainly going in the right direction, and we hope that that translates into a good trajectory for the number of hospitalizations and ICU numbers that that we'll see here in Fresno County," said Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

While health officials are optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over -- COVID-related deaths remain high.

RELATED: Central California COVID-19 vaccines: How to make an appointment, latest information by county

Emergency medicine physician Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF Fresno explains the number of deaths being reported now is from exposures that took place in early January.

"There's a lag between when the exposure until when you get sick to when you actually get infected to other people, to when you get sick to when you get hospitalized to unfortunately, to those who die. That can happen three-plus weeks later depending on what studies you're looking at," said Dr. Banh.

Now as California rushes to rollout the vaccine -- new variants of the coronavirus are making their way into the United States and are said to be more easily transmissible.

Health officials warn people need to remain vigilant at protecting themselves and their families.

"What we really need to do is stifle it early, vaccinate people and then put the fire out instead of letting it continue to burn and pop up in new areas," said Dr. Banh.

Experts worry Sunday's Super Bowl could cause a number of people to gather and spread the virus, leading to another surge.

"People need to pay attention that the choices that they make have real consequences. Really, Super Bowl parties, as tempting as they are and as fun as they are, we really need to be creative about how to do those perhaps virtually or in a way that's really safe and socially distanced," said Dr. Vohra.

Health care professionals are reminding the public to continue to wear a mask and use social distancing, even if you've been vaccinated.
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