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New Alternate Care Site Takes Shape Just as COVID-19 Vaccine Arrives



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Tuesday was “a historic day” said Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer.

The first shipment of 7,800 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived by Fedex at the health department early in the day.

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim health officer

“A historic day for the county.”Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra

Simultaneously, a team contracted from AMI Expeditionary Healthcare that includes doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals worked throughout the day to open a new alternate care site within Community Regional Medical Center. The team will ultimately total 31 people, many of them arrived this past weekend. They are working to open up 50 new beds in the North Medical Plaza building by weeks’ end.

It couldn’t come soon enough. 381 Community Medical Centers employees are off the job in self isolation. 230 of them are COVID-19 positive.

The state dashboard shows Fresno County has 16 available ICU beds as of Monday. However, the San Joaquin Region is at only a 1.6% availability.

A newly opened hospital in Coalinga that was supposed to help relieve pressure on the hospital system has run into staffing issues. “If we could find staffing, that would be really helpful. But right now, it hasn’t it hasn’t panned out,” admitted Fresno County EMS Director Daniel Lynch.

The vaccine news is something that Vohra says gives him reason to be hopeful and thankful. Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed during a news conference that Pfizer is sending an additional 393,900 doses of the vaccine as early as next week.

First truck with COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Community Regional Medical Center Tuesday morning. (CRMC)

Vaccine Arrival and Distribution

There were some additional state requirements that we received early this morning.”Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado

Fresno County Community Health Division Manager Joe Prado is engineering the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and says about 40% of what arrived on Tuesday has already been allocated to area hospitals.

GV Wire℠ asked Prado why he wasn’t able to get 100% of the vaccine out the door as soon as it arrived. “There were some additional state requirements that we received early this morning,” explains Prado. “Everybody has to take a step back and evaluate the information we receive and see whether or not they can still maintain quality control.”

That quality control is making sure the vaccine stays at ultra-cold temperatures throughout it’s distribution. An electronic data logger is placed in each box that senses whether or not the package has maintained the required temperature throughout its journey.

Prado says each box weighs about 70 or 80 pounds because of all the vaccine and dry ice packed into each one.

Every box that arrived at the county Tuesday was free of damage, and all of the contents were secure upon arrival, he said.

California has already decided step 1A of the vaccination phase includes healthcare workers and long term care residents. Phase 1B, still in development, could include teachers, farm workers and grocery workers, Newsom said in a morning video news conference.

CRMC worker carefully removes Pfizer vaccine doses out of shipping box. (CRMC)

Gavin Newsom Briefing Recap 12/15

Porterville Alternate Care Site

Lynch says an alternate care site in Porterville is open and accepting patients. The Porterville Developmental Center is an alternate care site that will care for patients who are less sick, allowing hospitals to treat more severe cases.

“They have 6 of them (patients) to take in today,” says Lynch. “They will cap it at 10 right now until they get additional staff in and then they’ll go up to 25.”

The Fresno Convention Center is still not open, but it’s ready should the need elevate to that point.

Prisons and Jails

GV Wire℠ asked if healthcare workers in the Fresno County jail or nearby Coalinga State Prison would be in the first group to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

“The first initial allocation is for hospital settings,” answered Prado. “The state system, they will be receiving their vaccine directly from the state.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as well as the California Correctional Health Care Services are working to align with state and health care guidelines for distribution prioritization.

“CDCR and CCHCS are actively working with our public health partners on a distribution plan for the COVID-19 vaccine for both staff and incarcerated individuals,” Deputy Director, Health Care Communications Liz Gransee tells GV Wire℠ by email. “(We) will aim to target frontline workers as well as medically high-risk patients.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued guidelines on Nov. 23 that recognized the distinctive situation for prisons. It listed correctional officers as essential workers who would be among the segment of the population to get the vaccine in the second wave of Phase 1, immediately following health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Extra Funding for Community Medical Regional Center

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved up to $2.5 million dollars of financial support for Community Regional Medical Centers to assist with their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding comes from the Fresno County allocation of Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Valley Children’s Hospital Receives Vaccine

Valley Children’s received their first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine this morning. Distribution of Valley’s Children’s allocation of doses (535 of the 975 delivered today) will begin tomorrow morning.

Valley Children’s Hospital was chosen as a regional “pre-positioning” COVID-19 vaccine distribution site by the California Department of Public Health. The hospital has the capacity to hold 200,000 doses in their ultra-low temperature freezer.