On Tuesday morning, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors joined by Fresno County health officials, announced the approval of $6 million for community hospitals in an effort to help fight COVID-19.
The recipient hospitals are Community Regional Medical Center, Saint Agnes Medical Center, and Clovis Community Medical Center.
In addition, the county recently awarded $4.7 million to the Marjaree Mason Center, Supervisor Nathan Magsig said. The center is the county’s only dedicated provider of domestic violence shelter and support services.
These funds come from the $194 million in coronavirus state and local recovery aid under the American Rescue Plan Act.
“We are incredibly grateful to Fresno County Board of Supervisors for their ongoing partnership in our work and making domestic violence a priority of their funding,” said Marjaree Mason Center’s Executive Director, Nicole Linder. “During the past 23 months of the COVID pandemic we have seen the severity of physical violence increase and more adults and their children in need of emergency shelter. Additionally, Fresno County experienced multiple domestic violence related homicides in 2021.”
How Will Funds Help Hospitals?
Pacheco said the funding announced Tuesday would directly help hospitals secure supplies and medicine, along with securing additional staffing.
“The American rescue funds are supposed to go directly to attacking COVID and that’s what the Fresno Board of Supervisors is doing,” said board chair Brian Pacheco. “Fighting COVID is a team effort. So it is with deep gratitude and appreciation that we do this effort to help our hospitals.”
“We believe that we are at the peak of our omicron phase and our hospitals deal with COVID-19 on a daily basis,” said Pacheco. “The good news is that our numbers are gradually coming off those peaks since last week. However, our county still has some challenges ahead and it is the people on the front lines, our friends in the medical community, who are our last line of defense in protecting us.”
David Luchini, director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said that while the omicron variant was found to be less severe in comparison to past variants, it was a much more infectious virus that led to a significant number of people needing hospitalization.
“The omicron variant surge impacted Fresno County, Southern California, Bay Area, and the Sacramento area much worse than the delta variant in terms of hospitalizations,” said Luchini. “When other counties throughout the state are greatly impacted at the same time, costs for hiring travel and health care workers go up.”
Vaccinations Are No. 1 Priority
While this new funding will be a big help for hospitals, their biggest challenge is getting the majority of county residents vaccinated, say health officials.
In the state, 80% of California residents are fully vaccinated, but only 57.8% of individuals are fully vaccinated in Fresno County.
“We know that the science of vaccines is getting crystal clear day by day, and we know that vaccines work, that boosters work and that’s what’s keeping people out of the hospitals,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, the county’s interim health officer. “Unfortunately, we just have a large pool of people that haven’t yet been vaccinated, and those are the folks that we’re treating at our local hospitals.”
$122 Million Set Aside for Public Health, COVID-19 Impacts
Paul Nerland, Fresno County’s administrative officer, said much of the $194 million will be split among different efforts. However, at least $122 million is earmarked for public health and the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“We felt like last time when we had the CARES Act funding in the last round that we ended up using all of that,” said Nerland. “It seemed like a lot of money at the time and so we want this money to be spent in a way that is both wise and makes an impact that is lasting.”
Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said that the $194 million might sound like a lot of money, but he warned the funding could go very quickly because of the great need for services among county residents.
The ARPA funding can be invested or used in four areas intended for public health, economic recovery, public sector revenue loss, essential workers, and infrastructure. The funding must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.
While $6 million in ARPA funding is slated to go directly to hospitals, much of the remaining funds will continue to be allocated to other services and programs throughout the county including homelessness, domestic violence, behavioral health as well as a continuation in providing COVID-19 testing and vaccines, said Magsig.
About $5 million to $7 million a month pays for COVID-19 testing and vaccines.