Tulare County health officials urge residents to cancel gatherings

Local health officials continue to reiterate that gatherings, even small ones, are the number one culprit behind the virus' spread.
TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The South Valley is seeing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases again.

Tulare County's public health department has reported more than 600 new cases of the virus over the past two days.

The county is also experiencing its highest active case count since August, with nearly 1,500 infections.

Public Health officials expect hospitalizations will continue to climb as well.

"We know in the week or two weeks following this, 10% of those patients are going to be in our local hospitals, so if we already have concerning surge in our local hospitals, we anticipate that we're going to have to initiate surge plans and start ramping up and we're planning if we need to ramp up alternative care sites as we may hit capacity and overcapacity at our local hospitals," says Carrie Monteiro with the Tulare County health services agency.

Staff members at Kaweah Delta Medical Center are treating more than three times as many COVID-19 patients right now than they were just one month ago.

As of Wednesday, 53 people were fighting the disease from hospital beds, including four patients in the ICU.

The number of employees on leave with COVID has also tripled in the last month.

With the holiday season now underway, hospital officials say the situation may get even worse in the months to come.

But they also know the public can help prevent another surge like they saw over the summer.

They reached a peak of 91 COVID patients three weeks after the July 4th holiday.

Local health officials continue to reiterate that gatherings, even small ones, are the number one culprit behind the virus' spread.

It's why Kaweah Delta employees are speaking in a variety of languages about the importance of staying home for the holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. The hospital's CEO made a passionate plea, saying if you truly love your family and want to protect them, you'll stay away from them.

Visalia's William Walker says he respectfully declined his sister's offer to gather at her Fresno home for Thanksgiving.

His parents, aged 90 and 91, did the same.

"They would love to go and experience. You never know how many more Thanksgivings you have, but their safety is primary and paramount that they take care of themselves. And I'm for that too," he says.

Kaweah Delta says they've seen a huge increase in demand for COVID-19 tests, many of these coming from people who want to get tested before gathering with family for the holidays.
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