Fresno health officials urging extra precautions ahead of holidays

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "We know people are going to be gathering with family, loved ones and friends," says Dr. Kenny Banch with UCSF Fresno. "Many who we haven't seen in a long time but we have to try to be safe while we do it."

Fresno health officials expect a surge in COVID cases after the holidays and are urging people to take extra precautions.

"Ensuring people are vaccinated is by far the number-one safest way we can act," Dr. Banh said. "Secondarily is just keeping social distancing methods when we can to ensure that staying six feet apart, trying to go to outdoor spaces, wearing masks whenever it's reasonably possible. Testing certainly is a way to mitigate the risks of covid."

PCR tests remain the gold standard for detecting an active COVID-19 infection but there are now a number of at-home testing options available.

RELATED: Valley health leaders encourage boosters as holiday season starts

"Antigen and rapid point of care testing are fairly good," Dr. Banh said. "You're talking about like 70-80% for those who are symptomatic, meaning if you have a cough, cold, a fever. It's pretty good. Not perfect at finding COVID but pretty good. But it's really not good at finding asymptomatic carriers."

At Free AME Church in west Fresno, people are rushing to get last-minute COVID tests before Thanksgiving gatherings.

"We just want everyone to be safe," says Crystal Joice.

Fresno County residents can stop by the church Monday through Friday between 11 am and 4 pm to get free COVID testing.

"We know that west Fresno has the highest concentration of poverty," says Rev. Floyd D. Harris Jr. "A lot of folks don't have cars and transportation to get to the other side of town or different testing locations. It's important for us where folks can just walk from their home."

Forecast models used by the CDC predict between 6,000 to 12,000 people will lose their lives from COVID-19 in the next three weeks nationwide.

Health officials advise those who test positive to stay home and follow guidance about notifying close contacts.

They also recommend gathering only with other vaccinated people.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.