State task force provides support in Merced County as COVID-19 numbers rise

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Representatives from several different state agencies met with local leaders at Merced County's Office of Emergency Services building Monday morning. The group included first responders, medical providers, and educators.

"We're glad that we have that attention in the sense that we're getting more resources. We're hoping that, of course, the attention will go away soon as we flatten the curve," says Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen.

The curve has been on a sharp uphill climb since late June with not only an increasing number of cases, but also the percentage of positive tests, deaths, and hospitalizations.

The ICU at Mercy Medical Center is currently at 90 percent of capacity.

Merced County Health Officer Dr. Salvador Sandoval says, "We're one of the hot spots in the whole country. I think the San Joaquin Valley, because of its long history of a lower amount of health care availability, I think has been more impacted."

Dr. Sandoval believes the re-opening of businesses and the peak agriculture season are also factors.

There are currently outbreaks of three or more unrelated positive cases at nearly two dozen facilities, which are listed on the county's COVID-19 website.

State officials say they will be looking at all of those issues and providing additional resources, from testing support to personal protective equipment.

California Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Chief Mark Pazin adds that time is of the essence.

He says, "We are running right into the flu season. Lord know what's going to happen when COVID-19 intersects with influenza. That's something we want to avoid, hence this task force working to ensure the Central Valley and the rest of California is going to be safe."

The state task force will stay in Merced County through Tuesday evening. The agenda includes discussions about a variety of COVID-19 challenges in this community as well as solutions, interventions, and technical assistance.
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