San Joaquin Valley hospitals cross threshold to enter COVID-19 surge protocol

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The San Joaquin Valley Region has met the threshold to enter surge protocols. This is the first region in the state to trigger the Public Health Order; that means we've had less than 10% of staffed adult ICU beds available for a period of three consecutive days.

As the Fresno County healthcare system braces for the holiday weekend, interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra is reminding us every little step counts.

"If you want to know how you can be sure that your loved one has a bed in the hospital tonight, if they have a heart attack, then wear a mask. This results in increased bed capacity in the hospital," said Dr. Vohra.

He adds, "People are tired. It's not just the numbers, it's the morale. People are exhausted and that's something the community needs to know. We're in some sense abusing our healthcare workers."

With healthcare workers bracing for another surge after Labor Day, hospitals are working to stay competitive when it comes to hiring travel nurses. EMS director Dan Lynch says they're not coming back to the Valley in the same numbers we saw at the beginning of the pandemic.

Lynch says, "Our system is still paralyzed as we try to move a huge number of patients through this healthcare system that is completely overwhelmed."

The health department is working with state and federal resources to try to ease the strain on our local hospital workers -- but it's hard to come by.

"We're on our own in the Central Valley and there isn't help staffing-wise coming from the State."

Officials say there is a lack of rapid testing right now, which typically takes 15 minutes for results. That's especially concerning at the school level, where outbreaks mean students could be out for 24-48 hours waiting for test results.

Dr. Vohra adds, "Schools are running on empty, so they still have a few of these rapid tests trying to use them as wisely as possible, working with the state schools committee and testing task force.

As Flu season approaches, health experts are driving home the importance of testing, saying symptoms of the cold or flu can be similar to COVID-19.
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