While the rest of California has seen COVID-19 case rates drop, hospitalizations in Fresno County are at their highest peak since the last previous surge.
While the state has an 80% vaccination rate, in Fresno County only 57.4% of individuals are fully vaccinated.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of lives have been lost as a result of this omicron surge,” said interim director Dr. Rais Vohra. “We continue to see fatalities going up among all age groups.”
California Sees A Drop in COVID Cases
While still high, the state had 22,000 hospitalizations in mid-January. As of last week, that number had dipped to 15,000.
The state’s positivity rates are down 15% from January.
While the omicron variant seems to have been the reason for this winter’s surge due to its transmissibility, early studies have shown omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the delta variant.
Health officials say vaccinations and boosters still offer the best protection from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Why Does Fresno County Trail Other Counties?
As earlier trends have indicated, Fresno County has often lagged behind other counties in the state after hospitalizations and COVID positive cases begin to come down.
Fresno County’s emergency medical services director, Dan Lynch, says that while some parts of the state are making a downward trend in regards to the number of hospitalized patients, Fresno County hasn’t turned the corner yet.
Health officials can’t quite explain the delay, but Vohra attributes some of the challenges to the strain on hospitals and emergency departments.
“We had a bit of a delay when the omicron variant actually came into our county compared to northern and southern California and there are delays in every single step,” said Vohra. “We have a more vulnerable population and less of a vaccination rate than more of these metropolitan areas.”
Fresno County Hospitals Are Full
Lynch says he hopes Fresno will hit its peak soon.
Currently, there are 607 individuals hospitalized with COVID in the county, a number that has increased significantly in the last few weeks, said Lynch.
However, Vohra says that high number doesn’t tell the whole story of what is happening in the hospitals.
“As a working hospital physician, I have the privilege to work in one of our big busy emergency departments and everything is coming in, the COVID, the trauma, the car crashes, the emergency surgeries, the heart attacks, the strokes,” said Vohra. “Life doesn’t wait for a COVID infection, but all of our hospital operations do have to balance all of these different demands.”
To ease some of the strain, a large majority of hospital staff that have been out with COVID infections is coming back, said Lynch.
Vaccine Doses In Fresno Decline
Joe Prado, the county’s health department manager, says the county has also seen fewer people getting vaccinated, specifically those in the youngest age groups.
“We’re monitoring our 5-11 and 12-17 populations and in those respective populations, in 5-11, 22% have received at least one dose and in the 12-17, approximately 60% have received one dose,” said Prado.
Prado says they will continue to utilize their mobile clinics as well as work with school districts to raise the vaccination rates.
In addition, they will continue messaging about the importance of vaccines whether it’s through social media, TV, radio, or community organizations.