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They Stood in Lines for Hours to Get COVID Shots at Fresno Fairgrounds



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Only a couple days into mass inoculations for the COVID-19 vaccine, sites in Fresno are attracting long lines of people ready to roll up their sleeves.

In northeast Fresno, the long lines were of cars containing one or more people who were able to wait their turn somewhat comfortably.

However, in southeast Fresno at the Fresno County Fairgrounds, the wait was considerably less comfortable — unless you brought a lawn chair or were sitting in a wheelchair. Hundreds stood in line for two hours or more waiting for their vaccine.

Former Fresno Bee editor Jim Boren, now executive director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust, tweeted his observations from the site and recommended bringing a chair along.

He noted that the experience could be improved with better communication, such as signage and letting people in line know what to expect. Also, Boren said, a taco truck could come in handy.

‘Wish It Was Better Organized’

Carol Bertuccelli, 81, a crisis counselor for Breaking the Chains, said she had been waiting almost two hours Thursday in a line that was “was not social distanced very well.”

“There’s a lot of people in wheelchairs and there’s no supervision for them or no place for them,” said Bertuccelli.

Mary Parfitt, 80, said she and others had appointment times but had to wait in line well past them. “I love that they’re doing this, but I really wish it was better organized,” she said.

Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer, told GV Wire℠ Thursday afternoon that the fairgrounds site “is definitely fulfilling its promise as a high-volume vaccination site.”

The county hopes to be able to meet the demand for those who have access to the internet and are able to register online, as well as those without internet access who need other options to register.

“We are working hard to prepare solutions to help get them pre-registered — keep checking back and stay tuned for further messages from the health department and community partners,” he said in an email.

Thayer Merritt, Simulation Specialist at CHSU received a COVID-19 vaccine at the Fresno Fairgrounds Thursday.

Seeking More Sites

Vohra said the county is working to line up other sites where vaccinations will be administered. “While the work ahead of us is daunting, it is very inspiring to see the relief, joy, and smiles on people’s faces as they step up to get their shots. …. We are thrilled about the great job the team is doing at the fairgrounds, but not at all becoming complacent in our pursuit of getting everyone in Fresno vaccinated, so we can at last reopen and get back to normal times.”

The Fresno County Department of Public Health website has a link to register for the fairgrounds vaccinations and directions on where to park.

According to the website, registration is full through Tuesday, Jan. 19 but was available from Jan. 20 through Jan. 23 as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

The website also contains a COVID-19 Vaccine Interest Form, so the county can contact people in other tiers once more vaccine is available. Right now the county is limiting vaccinations to people who are age 75 or older or in a specialty category such as healthcare workers.

Vohra said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that his goal is to administer 3,000 doses daily in the county by the end of this week.

But that number will need to more than triple to get a majority of county residents inoculated. “We need to really get to 10,000 or more doses, because even at 7,000 a day, over 52 weeks, you only have inoculated half the population,” Supervisor Nathan Magsig said.

To help ramp up the amount of vaccine going out each day, the county is scaling up the operation at the fairgrounds. “Our target is to be able to do 1,500 vaccinations a day there,” Fresno County Health Director David Pomaville told the supervisors.

People waited in long lines Thursday at the Fresno County Fairgrounds to receive their primary COVID-19 vaccination. They’ll still need a second shot in several weeks. (Special to GV Wire/Susan Wittrup)

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email