Central CA is one of the top COVID-19 hotspots in U.S., White House says

White House Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx identified the Central Valley as one of 10 problem areas in the battle against the coronavirus.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County and the rest of the Central Valley are part of a national conversation they'd rather not join.

The Valley was identified this week as one of ten COVID-19 hot spots in the US.

Fresno County's test positivity rate sits at about 12%.

Officials figure the Valley-wide struggles with the coronavirus will ultimately lead to a regional strategy to reduce the infection rate.

Nine US cities with significant COVID upticks were mentioned by Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who also identified the Central Valley as a problem area.

"It stings a little bit to be called out at the national level. I do feel like maybe this will help us get more resources, that this is going to be a wake-up call," said Fresno County's public health officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

A state strike team dispatched by Governor Newsom met this week with Valley officials.

Their recommendations on how best to reduce the COVID rate are expected next week.

Dr. Anthony Fauci called the test positivity increases in places like the Central Valley a "predictor of trouble ahead."

"If there is a silver lining that comes out of this conversation, I'm hoping this extra attention and scrutiny will actually translate to increased resources for helping us do testing," says Dr. Vohra.

Dr. Vohra hopes that will include federal resources.

An 'all hands on deck' approach to fight the virus has led Fresno County to move several employees from different departments to assist the Public Health department.

"We've actually mobilized staff from different departments in the county to work with the medical investigation team and the contact tracing team and sometimes fielding provider call lines," said public nursing director Rose Mary Rahn.

As part of a new campaign, employees at St. Agnes Medical Center signed a "Pledge to Protect."

It aims to help educate people who aren't getting the message.

And as we head into the weekend, Dr. Vohra offered a reminder to avoid family gatherings and neighborhood gatherings that allow the virus to spread.

Dr. Vohra added that at this point, the 50 extra patient beds set up at the Fresno Convention Center did not need to be used yet.
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