COVID 365: A year on lockdown and the health impact in Central California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The health care system has felt a tremendous strain due to the coronavius.

All week on Action News, we're sharing with viewers a special series called," COVID 365: A year on lockdown."

Stories will focus on the impact the pandemic has had on our every day lives here in Central California.

The loss of a friend and fellow nurse, Sandy Oldfield, to COVID-19, shook Kaiser ICU Nurse Amy Arlund to her core.

Arlund said, "After watching a nurse colleague die, I realized I'm not ready to die and I don't have my life in order. A lot of us started drawing up our own wills."

Arlund contracted COVID herself but recovered and returned to work.

The pandemic has weighed heavily - emotionally and mentally - on Valley health care workers.

Arlund explained, "Watching hundreds of members of my community die. Those are people's parents, their grandparents. We've seen entire families cycle through our hospital."

But front-line workers also cheered the victories.

Pastor Mark Wallace spent 28 days in the hospital. The virus damaged his lungs and kidneys..

Wallace said, "The comeback has been miraculous even though it's been a long haul. I was not expected to live when I was on the ventilator."

Doctors would describe Pastor Wallace and his wife, Tammy, of Living Word Fellowship in Dinuba as "long-haulers," patients with lingering symptoms weeks, even months, after the coronavirus clears.

Wallace said, "I had come back but I was still dealing with, for a long period of time, shortness of breath, body aches. Oh man."

Wallace wouldn't feel like himself until September, five months after being infected.

Over the past year in Fresno County, 97,520 people became infected with COVID while 1,535 lives were lost.

Fresno County Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said, "It's certainly been surreal. I think the development of these vaccines has been perhaps the one great development in this pandemic. "

Shipments of the vaccine have steadily increased in recent weeks.

Health officials believed each shot could help protect against another surge.

Fresno County Health Division Manager Joe Prado said, "The speed that everybody is willing to get vaccinated is great and we need to maintain that momentum. As we have more doses, we'll need more medical providers. We need to create more distribution systems."

Wallace couldn't wait for his turn. He said, "I always encourage people go get it because I don't want anybody to go through what I went through."

Dr. Vohra added, "Hopefully we can stay on pace to get to herd immunity by early in the summer."

That would be cause for celebration.

But even as our COVID case numbers dropped, doctors and nurses urged people to keep wearing a mask and continue to stay socially distanced.
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