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Valley Hospitals Overwhelmed and Over Capacity As COVID-19 Cases Surge



More than 100,000 Californians were hospitalized with COVID as of Friday and Valley hospitals say they are over capacity. (AP File)
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Following a surge in COVID-19 cases across the state, a similar turn of events is being felt throughout the Central Valley.

In a joint statement, both the Fresno County Department of Public Health and the Madera County Department of Public Health announced that their hospitals are being impacted and running over capacity.

Madera County’s public health director, Sara Bosse, is urging anyone with symptoms to get tested and stay home while awaiting results.

“Bottom line – we expect a lot more cases in upcoming weeks and testing capacity will likely be overwhelmed,” said Bosse.

Valley Hospitals Are Struggling With Overcapacity Again

Both FCDPH and MCDPH have stated Fresno and Madera hospitals are currently over capacity with limited space due to a surge in COVID -19 cases brought on by the omicron variant.

Dan Lynch, Fresno County’s emergency medical services director, said last week that an assess and refer policy for local ambulances would be reinstated as soon as this week. The same strategy was used during earlier COVID surges to help keep hospitals from experiencing patient overload.

“We really need people to avoid the hospital emergency departments if they have a non-emergent type of medical condition and really try to seek and use their private physicians,” said Lynch. He encouraged people to instead utilize local clinics, urgent care facilities, and telephone or telehealth resources.

Last week, Fresno County hospitals reported large numbers of staff unavailable for work due to COVID infections or isolation requirements. On Monday, Kaweah Health CEO Gary Herbst said 205 employees of the Tulare County healthcare system have tested positive for the virus.

“Hospital staff do get COVID and are also exposed to COVID,” said Lynch. “These are employees of the hospital that are out because they either have COVID or they’re exposed, and they are on isolation.”

As of the weekend, Tulare County reported a similar situation with hospitals being at or over capacity.

“We are experiencing a slight uptick in hospitalized COVID-19 cases,” spokesperson Carrie Monteiro said in a news release. “The Omicron variant is circulating in our county and is very contagious which is why it is important that everyone continue all safety measures, including getting vaccinated, getting a booster vaccine, wearing a mask while in any indoor public setting, staying home when ill and frequent handwashing.”

Staffing Still Available

While hospitals are dealing with staffing issues, Lynch says many contracted for travel nurses early on so that the impact from a coming surge wouldn’t be so difficult.

Additional personnel from the state have also been made available through the end of February, says Lynch.

“It’s really a great, great thing that the state has been able to help because the Valley really is challenged with trying to get the staffing into those hospitals,” said Lynch.

Newsom Seeks More COVID Funding

Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration proposed spending another $2.7 billion to help fight the COVID -19 pandemic, including calling for a new law to give workers more paid time off if they get sick.

The administration hopes to use $1.2 billion to help with testing, including money to pay for extending the hours and capacity at state-run testing sites, while also sending millions of tests to local health departments, community clinics and schools reports the Associated Press.

As of Friday, AP reported that more than 100,000 Californians were hospitalized with COVID. The state responded by deploying the National Guard to testing sites to help meet demand.

Symptoms Of COVID-19 To Look Out For

Both FCDPH and MCDPH are reminding residents to stay home if sick, and most importantly if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, if they have been in close contact with someone who is sick with the virus, or had symptoms of COVID-19.

They also advise individuals who are awaiting test results to stay home and away from others in order to avoid exposing other family members, friends, co-workers, or classmates.

Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea can all be symptoms of COVID-19, say health officials.

Testing and Vaccination Sites

To find a full schedule of testing events and sites for Fresno County, click here.

For Madera County, click here

For Tulare County, click here

To find vaccination sites near you, check here or visit the MyTurn portal to make an appointment online.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at