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Valley Pastor Reflects on His Life or Death Battle With COVID



Dinuba Pastor Mark Wallace celebrates his release from Kaiser Permanente Fresno after 24 days battling COVID in 2020. (Kaiser)
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On the second anniversary of the COVID-19 global pandemic, a Dinuba pastor is giving thanks for the medical efforts that saved his life.

Mark Wallace is one of the lucky ones. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1 million people have died from the virus.

“I arrived at Kaiser on April the 9th of 2020 and that evening, I was put on the ventilator,” said Wallace during a virtual news conference last week hosted by Kaiser Permanente Fresno. “It saved my life. The people at Kaiser, the doctors, the nurses were just fantastic.”

Dinuba Pastor Reflects on His Battle With COVID

Wallace, who leads the Living Word Fellowship, recalls the agitating moments he experienced as a COVID-19 patient.

Pastor Mark Wallace from Dinuba battled COVID-19 for 24 days at Kaiser Permanente in April 2020. (Kaiser)

“All the way through the process. I was intubated and for 10 days I was in a medically induced coma and then after 14 days, I did come off of the ventilator and was extubated and spent another 10 days in the ICU,” said Wallace.

“I was face down for 16 hours at a time and then back in the other position, back down for a couple of hours, and then back face down again taking the pressure off of my lungs so that I could breathe better.”

Now, Wallace gives thanks to the nurses and physicians who teamed to keep him alive.

“Some of the procedures that they took were were life-saving,” said Wallace. “The virus nearly took my life. It was a terrible, horrible process.”

COVID-19 Vaccinations Are Life Saving

After Wallace’s brush with death, he decided to share his story and worked on a book telling of his experiences.

Now he urges everyone to get vaccinated — even people who are vaccine-hesitant.

“I totally, totally believe everybody ought to be vaccinated. I am vaccinated now, even though I have a lot of immunity,” said Wallace. “I just never want anyone to go through what I went through.”

Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease specialist and the clinical lead for Kaiser Permanente’s COVID response team, says the organization has vaccinated millions of Californians.

“We’ve actively worked to make the vaccines accessible to everyone … regardless of zip code, and especially for those communities that were hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Parodi. “We’ve increased vaccination rates through mass vaccination hubs, pop-up clinics in our communities, and enlisting trusted messengers.”

On the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center Lights up in blue on Friday, March 11, 2022, in a tribute to healthcare workers, first responders, and the local community. (Kaiser)

Transitioning From Pandemic to Endemic

What’s in the future as California transitions from a pandemic to an endemic? Ultimately more vaccinations, says Parodi.

“So endemic just basically means that it’s predictable and we know that the disease is going to be around,” said Parodi.

He says COVID-19 cases will look a lot like the flu, rising and falling as they make their way seasonally, surging in winter and receding in summer.

“So COVID-19 very much could be like that where it’s at some kind of low level and then we periodically are going to see surges because the virus changes and mutates,” said Parodi.

Parodi says the healthcare system should plan for both eventualities. When cases are low, masks can come off; when cases spike, masks should return.

It’s relatively predictable for us what we do with influenza, and I think that’s kind of what we want to do with COVID-19 is get to that level of normalization,” said Parodi.

Watch: Valley Pastor Opens up About His COVID Battle

What Do COVID Cases Look Like Now in Fresno?

The current seven-day average for Fresno County is about 11.5 cases per 100,000 people. The county’s death rate from the virus is 0.33 per 100,000.

These statistics are a drastic change from the high number of COVID cases and deaths that flooded and overwhelmed hospitals in both years 2020 and 2021.

As of March 2022, there has been one COVID-19 death and 11.5 cases of the virus in the last week in Fresno County. (FCDPH)

In the two years since the pandemic began, 2,689 lives have been lost to COVID-19 in Fresno County. The California death count for the virus is 87,713.

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